PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered free contraceptives for six million women unable to access them, a minister said yesterday.
Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the move to ensure “zero unmet need for family planning” was important to reduce poverty in the nation of 104 million.
He said the government’s target is to cut the poverty rate from 21.6 per cent in 2015 to 14 or 13 per cent by the end of Mr Duterte’s term in 2022.
Mr Duterte’s executive order on Monday said that out of the six million women without access to contraception, two million have been identified as poor and should have access to it by 2018, and the rest thereafter.
The Philippines is the only Asia-Pacific country where the rate of teenage pregnancies rose over the last two decades, the UN population fund said last year.
In 2015, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on parts of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law following appeals by anti-abortion groups that claim contraceptives cause abortions.
The court prohibited the distribution of a contraceptive implant and froze the renewal of licences for other contraceptives. The government has appealed for the lifting of the order.
“The government cannot continue to tolerate this delay in judgement, because time is of the essence as far as the implementation of the law is concerned,” Mr Pernia said.
He said 11 Filipino women die each day from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, and the law will reduce maternal deaths and teen pregnancies while enabling families to have the number of children they want.