Electoral forum on reproductive health, tobacco use sked in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY --- The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) and the Forum for Family Planning and Development Inc., will conduct a series of electoral fora dubbed "iChange: Vote for Reproductive Health and a Smoke-Free Generation" on March 12 here and in Tabaco City.

PLCPD project coordinator Rio Magpayo, in an interview Tuesday, said the iChange forum is a voters’ education campaign bringing reproductive health (RH) and smoke-free generation as political issues in the coming mid-term elections.

“This is empowering voters with information and influencing candidates’ platforms of government towards policy reform and decisive actions towards a truly inclusive and sustainable development,” Magpayo said. On the issue on reproductive health, he said the country has been seeing some improvements in the situation of sexual and reproductive health over a six-year period since the enactment of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law.

“The results of the latest National demographic and health survey in 2017 demonstrate marked improvements in key indicators of sexual reproductive health including modern family planning prevalence rate, total fertility rate and unmet need for family planning,” he added.

Quoting official statistics, Magpayo explained that modern contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) increased from 37.6 percent in 2013 to 40.4 percent in 2017.

“The total fertility rate (TFR) and unmet need for family planning (FP) have continuously been decreasing, albeit slowly, over the years. The total fertility rate decreased from 3 percent in 2013 to 2.7 percent in 2017 and the unmet need for family planning decreased from 18 percent in 2013 to 17 percent in 2017,” he said. According to Magpayo, even with these developments, the Philippines still has the lowest annual average increase in CPR and highest in TFR among selected Asian countries.

“And still an estimated 7.7 million of women of reproductive age have unmet need for FP. HIV cases in the Philippines are also increasing rapidly from nine cases per day in 2012 to 32 cases in 2018,” he added.

Magpayo reiterated that these key challenges to the implementation of the law still remain. There is also uneven implementation at the local level due to lack of capacities such as human resources, funding and willingness on the part of the LGUs to promote RH and FP programs.

“Adolescent reproductive health remains to be a serious concern because of the rising teen age pregnancies and HIV cases among young people,” he noted.

On the tobacco issue, the PLCPD intends to encourage participation to effect change and support the voters’ education campaign at elevating tobacco control, particularly 100-percent smoke-free environment and increase tobacco tax as an electoral issue.

Magpayo said there are still gaps in policies and their implementation that need to be addressed by reforms in both policy and governance, adding “that Philippines is a high burden tobacco-use country, according to the World Health Organization.”

He also said that during the campaign season leading up to the elections, PLCPD will be concentrating its efforts on promoting among Filipino voters the issue of harmful effects of the use of tobacco and why it is not only a public health but also a development issue that is grossly affecting the country's economy and environment.