Psyche Paler, PopCom regional director, said the collaboration was impossible many years before because while the Church was pushing for natural family planning, the government insisted on artificial birth control methods.
“In Region 10, it can be done and it has been done,” she told MindaNews after speaking to reporters from the region attending a workshop on Responsible Parenting and Natural Family Planning on March 13 to 14.
Paler said there should be no clash between Popcom’s NFP and that of the Catholic Church.
In 2006, Paler said, President Arroyo instructed Popcom to promote Natural Family Planning only. But she said the Department of Health has continued to promote artificial birth control along with natural family planning methods.
She said since then, Popcom has worked with community workers of the diocese and has counted the NFP orientations conducted by the latter in chapels along with its barangay-based orientations.
Paler said the church-based and Popcom-funded NFP Center in Cagayan de Oro, which runs programs and offers resources for couples to have informed decisions on NFP as the concrete example of the collaboration.
The Center’s coordinator, Susan Pagente and her husband Renato, shared with reporters their “success story” in using NFP. She said their shift from artificial birth control to Billings Ovulation method, another NFP method since 2004 have improved their relationship as a couple.
Paler said Abp. Ledesma’s openness to allow collaboration between the efforts of the commission and its community workers on NFP has given them a “positive backdrop to the NFP program.”
“While in other communities they continue to quarrel over it, here we are doing it together,” she said.
Paler said they aim to raise the prevalence of NFP methods in the region from 0.3 percent in 2006 to 17 percent in 2010.
She said they have already conducted at least one NFP orientation with 10 initial couples each in all barangays of Northern Mindanao’s 62 towns. The region has 2,020 barangays in 85 towns and eight cities.
She said they are gaining ground in the campaign because of the collaboration but she could not provide figures of their accomplishments as of press time.
Paler, however, said the collaboration did not come easy.
In December 2006, Ledesma, who initiated an all-NFP program in the Prelature of Ipil when he was assigned there, brought the program to Cagayan de Oro upon his appointment as the archbishop of Cagayan de Oro.
He backed the signing of Memorandum of Agreement with Popcom and DOH-10 on the launching of the Responsible Parenting Movement/Natural Family Planning, which provided sharing of resources on NFP.
Ledesma, however, caused the withdrawal of the MOA after it was questioned by some sectors within the Catholic Church.
She said some people from the Church sector had shot down the collaboration over accusations that Popcom was promoting natural family planning while advising couples to use artificial family planning methods as back up.
Paler denied the allegations. “The NFP promoted by the church is the same NFP pushed by Popcom,” she said.
In his guidelines issued in November 2008 on the Church’s involvement with government in the promotion of NFP, Ledesma defined “all-NFP” as including all scientific NFP methods, reaching out to all chapels and barangays, and promoting NFP all the way, or without any back-up contraceptives.
He said local government units in Cagayan de Oro, Camiguin, and Misamis Oriental have set aside budgets for NFP promotion and have requested the archdiocese for the services of NFP trainers and manuals.
Ledesma described the collaboration as a “critical engagement” as they stick to the pastoral guidelines of being “pro-life,” for responsible parenthood, for natural family planning, and for empowering couples to make an informed and responsible choice.
He said “We shall continue to criticize and disassociate ourselves from government and other organizations when they promote family planning methods deemed morally unacceptable by the church.”
“On the other hand, we are ready to share our NFP training and enter into common activities with LGUs and other groups that promote NFP. This is best shown in the allocation of their budgets and training programs,” he said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)