Since birth control is a core RH issue and since the burgeoning population is being blamed for widespread poverty, one is wont to ask if our population growth rate of 1.9 percent is really the cause of poverty and its manifestations.
But even if contraception and abortion result in every family having only two children, if the government is hardly moving to generate enough jobs, poverty will continue to hound the population.
Even if children from Grade V to high school are given sex education and taught how to have sex without risk of pregnancy, there will only be heightened experimentation with sex and more teenage pregnancies if the youngsters are not taught values.
Even if we succumb to the lobby and flood public clinics with condoms and contraceptives, the standard of public health will remain low if frontline clinics and hospitals catering to the poor are not stocked with basic and critical medicines.
Even if Filipinos become world-class experts in safe sex, that will not enhance their chances for employment and liberation from poverty if the government has neglected quality education and training for technical skills.
Even if we are able to achieve zero population growth, poverty and its attendant ills will continue to stalk the land if the government does not move to disperse opportunities (for jobs, schooling, etc.) and stem migration to urban centers.
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ABORTIVE PROCEDURES: The RH bill (HB 4244) speaks grandly in Section 2 (Declaration of Policy) of guaranteed “universal access to medically-safe, legal, affordable, effective and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, and supplies.”
In Section 3 (Guiding Principles), it also says: “While this Act recognizes that abortion is illegal and punishable by law, the government shall ensure that all women needing care for post-abortion complications shall be treated and counseled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner.”
But critics counter that the RH bill would pave the way for easier access to abortion.Under Section 4 (Definition of Terms), the bill speaks of providing “Basic Emergency Obstetric Care” which refers to “lifesaving services for maternal complications being provided by a health facility or professional, which must include the following six signal functions: administration of parenteral antibiotics; administration of parenteral oxytocic drugs; administration of parenteral anticonvulsants for pre-eclampsia and eclampsia; manual removal of placenta; removal of retained products; and assisted vaginal delivery.”
If a woman starts bleeding because of contraceptives, under the “compassionate” law, her case can be declared a failed abortion or miscarriage and she can then demand a full repertoire of emergency services that are in effect those for an abortion.
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SIPAG APPROACH: The fight against poverty need not concentrate on just curbing population growth, but must also help the poor become more productive and fulfilled.
In Las Piñas, there is the Villar Sipag Center rising in the sprawling grounds of a memorial park a stone’s throw away from Diego Cera Ave. where the world-renowned bamboo organ is.
This project of the Villar Foundation (established in 1995) seeks to empower the poor and enhance their humanity. Set for completion next year, the center will house a library or resource center for poverty reduction, a reception area, a theater, and an exhibit hall.
More Sipag Centers for the poor will be put up near churches that the foundation plans to build around the country after the completion of the Santuario de San Ezekiel Moreno church beside the Las Piñas center.
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BANISH POVERTY: Sen. Manny Villar, the foundation’s founding chairman, explains, “Social enterprise experts say that poverty should be banished to a museum. I share their vision… And until that happens, we’ll work tirelessly to ease poverty wherever we find it in our country.”The United Nations reports that close to 900 million of the world’s poor, who survive on less than $1 a day, live in Asia Pacific, and that nearly one in three Asians is poor.
Over 40 million Filipinos are living on less than $2 a day. Although poverty incidence in the country has been reduced, the actual number of people still in the grip of poverty has increased over the last two decades.
The country’s economic growth has not been robust enough to speed up poverty reduction, one of eight targets that the Philippines pledged to fulfill under the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.
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A BEEHIVE: Cynthia A. Villar, the foundation’s managing director, says the Villar Sipag Center will be a proactive beehive of activity.
“We’ll promote industriousness or hard work to beat poverty,” the former Las Piñas congresswoman says. “We’ll guide, train, teach and empower womenfolk, the youth, jobless and even relatives of overseas Filipino workers to persevere in life.”
Although being pursued quietly, the livelihood-generation and skills training initiatives of the foundation have caught the eye of the world.
One of its programs, the Las Piñas-Zapote River System Rehabilitation program, recently bested those of 38 other countries for the United Nation’s “Water for Life” Best Practices Award. It won the UN award because it did not only rehabilitate the river, but also improved the living conditions of the poor along the banks.