Remarks of Honorable Secretary Enrique T. Ona Women Deliver 2013 Conference

May 29, 2013

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

First Remarks: Focus on key lessons from the victory of RH bill (3 minutes)

This has been an amazing year for Family Planning advocates most especially in the Philippines as we finally hurdled and achieved the passage of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act (RPRH)in December of 2012, after nearly 15 years and 5 Congresses. The passage of this bill is a triumph to ourwomen who fought for the passage of this bill into law. Some of them are here with us and I am deeply honored to share our experience on their behalf.

 Family planning access is absolutely critical for us Filipinos.In the Philippines, out of 7.2 million women of reproductive age belonging to the poorest 5.2 million households, 62% or 4.6 million are sexually active. Of these women, 3.7 million women do not want to have children. Out of these 3.7 million women, only 39% or 1.4 million are using modern family planning methods. This leaves us with 61% or 2.2 million women who are not using any modern contraception method. Moreover, surveys also revealed that the majority of the Filipinos agree that the government should make family planning services available to those who want to avail. Also, 71%of Filipinos are in favor of the Reproductive Health Law.

The RH law truly challenged the status quo in the Philippines. Considering that 85% of Filipinos consider themselves Roman Catholics and with a very conservative church hierarchy. The process and the debates on the bill were very divisive, with the so-called pro-life opposing the bill and the so-called pro-choice supporting it. The journey towards the bill’s passage, however, reveled amaturing citizenry that demanded moral answers and critical information that led to an informed decision. The passage and enactment of the RPRH law is seen as a result of 1- the unwavering support and commitment of President Benigno Aquino III to women’s empowerment in their health and family size, 2- the coordination of the country’s legislators (and I’d like to recognize Senator PiaCayetano and Representative Janet Garin who are here with us)with civil society organizations, 3- the widespread advocacy through the power of mass mediaand social media, and lastly, the enlightened Filipino public who owned up to the issue, particularly the youth and women.

 With this, we can say that the passage of the RPRH was made possible with the combination of these critical elements-a strongpolitical will, committed leadership from both the legislative and executive branches of government, and widespread support of the community.


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Second Remarks: Focus on how do you expect to keep this momentum going? What do you see on the road ahead for FP access? (2 minutes)

Reducing maternal and neonatal mortality in the Philippines remains a key development challenge. The RPRH, a landmark legislation, broadens and strengthens our current reproductive health programs to improve maternal, adolescent and child health in the country.

 One of the guiding principles for implementation of the law states that gender equality and women empowerment are central elements of reproductive health and population and development. Hence, access to reproductive health care and especially family planning services, particularly by the poor and marginalized, is now ensured. The national government shall procure family planning commodities for the poor population but more importantly, it is now mandatory for all local government units to implement the Family Planning program in their respective jurisdictions. Through this, we aim to achieve 53 percent contraceptive prevalence rate (OR CPR) for modern methods by 2013, and 67 percent CPR for all methods by 2015.

In addition, the law directs the Department of Health to reorganize the various programs on Reproductive Health which include Maternal and Child Health into a unified bureau or office that shall have an organizational structure that corresponds to the functions of, a) standards development, policy, planning and financing; b) capacity building; c) advocacy and communication; d) support to field operations and e) monitoring and evaluation of the programs as implementation goes along.

The major challenge therefore is how to monitor the implementation of the program, making sure that the support of the public does not wane. We also need to guarantee the financial sustainability of the program in the years to comethrougha sustained budget support.

However, Filipinos have encountered a temporary setback for the implementation of the RPRH Act when eleven Petitions were filed at our Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the RPRH Act on various grounds – most of which are restated arguments of the minority in Congress who opposed the law’s passage.

Even with the RPRH Act temporarily suspended, we have already been investing heavily in our family planning program. In 2012, the national government, with the assistance of our development partners and the local government units, procured family planning products and provided services to benefit the 2.2 million women of reproductive age who are identified poor

Through the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act and the sustained efforts of the national and local government, our women’s reproductive needsare now being matched by available, accessible, and quality reproductive health care services, ensuring that no mother will deliver an unwanted pregnancy or die while giving life.