House to tackle reproductive health bill anew

Committee chair and South Cotabato Second District Rep. Arthur Pingoy Jr. said House Bill 812 or the proposed Reproductive Health Care Act may help provide answers to the country's problems on huge population and rising food requirements, especially rice.

He pointed out that the national government must also consider high population growth in pushing various measures to increase the country's food productivity.

"We need to consider whether our food production is still enough to feed 86 million people or is it necessary for us to push for serious planning strategies," he said in a radio interview here.

Last year, the country's population was pegged at 86 million and is projected to rise between 88 and 90.4 million this year.

Pingoy, a physician, vowed to initiate committee discussions regarding the bill when the House of Representatives resume its regular sessions in the next two weeks.

"I think we should now act on it," he said in the vernacular.

Pingoy said the proposed measure, which is strongly opposed by the Catholic Church, is presently pending at his committee after it was refiled in the 14th Congress last year by its principal author Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin.

Garin's bill faced a rough sailing in the 13th Congress after meeting strong objections from the Catholic Church hierarchy and pro-life advocates due to some contentious provisions.

The new bill has already scrapped the provisions that encouraged couples to raise only two children at most in exchange for a government scholarship and other benefits. It has also made sex education and the use of artificial family planning methods such as pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and Depo Provera injectables optional.

But the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines earlier cautioned the government against blaming the booming population for the impending rice crisis in the country.

Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, chair of the CBCP's Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said that instead of laying the blame on the country's population, it should be commended for being a major economic booster through labor migration.

In a media forum here this morning, South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said the government should take the looming problem on rice supplies as a wakeup call on the country's dwindling food production and the need to feed a growing population.

"We should start preparing now for the possible rise of our population by additional 20 million within the next decade," she said.

Fuentes said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's commitment during the national food summit in Clark last week to infuse a fresh P48.7-billion package for the agriculture sector was a good start but stressed the government should make sure that it would be utilized properly.

"We don't want any more of these sub-standard irrigation facilities, seeds that don't germinate and missing fertilizers," the governor added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)