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Lagman urges free birth control pills during ECQ

An Albay lawmaker has urged the government to continue providing free reproductive health supplies as more couples are at home during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

"In the midst of lockdowns to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, spouses and partners need to avail themselves of contraceptives and other effective methods of family planning to prevent unplanned, unwanted and high-risk pregnancies," said Albay 1st district representative Edcel Lagman.

Lagman urged the government to continue discharging its mandate of extending free reproductive health (RH) supplies and services, especially to the marginalized sector.

He also encouraged drug stores and pharmacies to have adequate stocks of contraceptives and other RH supplies for those who could afford to buy these products.

Based on the 2010 Census of Population and Housing, the Bicol region reported a population of 5.4 million, with a population rate increase of 1.29 percent per year from 2010 until 2015. The annual increase is 0.15 percent lower from the 1.49 percent annual growth from the period 2000-2010.

Camarines Sur, including Naga City, had the largest population (1.8 million). Catanduanes had the least population (246,300) but reported the biggest percentage of rural population. Camarines Norte was the fastest growing province in the region with an average annual population growth rate (PGR) of 1.38 percent during the period 2010 to 2015, according to Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

According to the PSA poverty report for the year 2018, the region was able to cushion the economic impacts of disasters as a result of volcanic eruption and extreme weather.

But this Covid-19 pandemic has hit sectors the worst that helped alleviate poverty in the region in the said year. These include micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), hospitality and services, and infrastructure.

Ladylyn Lim Mangada wrote in an article published in a website maintained by the School of Politics and International Relation under the University of Nottingham that "Under normal conditions, rapid population growth already threatens social and economic growth. This situation intensifies in an environment of disaster."

Mangada is a political science professor from the University of the Philippines - Visayas and conducted research on poverty alleviation in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda.

She said a baby boom during a disaster "has the potential to exacerbate existing demands for economic opportunities that promote sustainable livelihood and basic social services to ensure life sustenance and protection."

As such, "effective state and non-state actor interventions must start with the recognition that women have specific vulnerabilities and have special needs," she said.

In 2017, the Philippine population is estimated at more than 104 million. In Tacloban City, Super Typhoon Haiyan's (Yolanda) epicenter, the number of estimated baptized children grew in 2013 to 2015 from 2073, 2078, and 2335 respectively. Likewise, the number of deliveries at regional public hospitals grew from 4392, 5157, and 5426 respectively.

A post disaster baby boom, as many studies showed including these reports from Tacloban after Yolanda, proves to be doubly challenging for a country with already rapid population growth.

In that respect, the Reproductive Health Law or R.A. No. 103, which Lagman co-authored, gains more relevance today.

The RH Law provides that contraceptives, which are certified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are essential medicines under the Philippine National Drug Formulary System.

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