08/20/2004, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Church: "Two-child policy is anti-family"

Manila (AsiaNews) – A bill on managing population growth that was recently introduced in the House of Representatives met strong opposition from the Catholic Church for violating "religious and spouses' freedom".

The "Reproductive Health Act" was submitted by Congressman Edcel Lagman. It speaks of "reproductive health", "parental responsibility", "population management", ideas taken from United Nations documents that are inspired by a radical ideology.

Under the bill, "the State shall adopt an integrated and comprehensive policy on reproductive health in connection with sustainable human development and effective population management that values the dignity of every human person and affords full protection to people's rights".

The bill encourages "the limitation of the number of children to an affordable level of two children per family," and calls upon the government to "encourage two children as the ideal family size [. . .] to attain the desired population growth rate."

"Population management" will also involve preferential treatment. "Children from [two-child] families shall have preference in the grant of scholarship at the tertiary level."

The Filipino Catholic Church strongly opposes the bill. According to Attorney Jo Imbong, Legal Office Executive Secretary of the Philippine Bishops' Conference, "the bill makes a mockery of the inherent rights of the family. It defies the State's constitutional mandate to value and protect the institution of marriage, strengthen the family and foster its solidarity and full development," he said.

The two-child policy "violates the spouses' right to religious belief [which does] not only mean the freedom to believe but also includes the freedom to act on one's belief."

The bill also includes "a heightened nationwide multi-media campaign to raise the level of public awareness" about population issues. It also proposes a three-year tax exemption for manufacturers of family planning devices "and related reproductive health products."

The bill's backers argue that the country's population growth, which stands at 2.36% per year (the highest in the world), is the main cause for inadequate government educational and health programmes. Others like attorney Imbong believe that run-away corruption in government is the main cause of poverty among Filipinos. (SE)

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