08/08/2008, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Filipino bishops call for education and development, not contraceptives

by Santosh Digal
Two congressional committees back the Reproductive Health bill, triggering the bishops’ reaction against the ‘pro-abortion” bill. The prelates want the government to come up with policies that focus on “education, agricultural development and help to the poor.”
Manila (AsiaNews) – In a tough statement following the decision by the House Committee on Appropriations to approve the Reproductive Health bill, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged the country’s lawmakers to spend money on education, food and housing programmes for the poor, instead of contraceptives.

“Our lawmakers should not spend billions of pesos for contraceptives. They should spend it on education, food and housing programs for the poor,” said Fr Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the CBCP’s Commission on Family and Life.

The House Committee on Appropriations and the House Committee on Health have backed the Reproductive Health bill, hoping it gets through second reading in the House.

Committee on Appropriations Chairman Congressman Edcel C. Lagman said that the draft bill was backed by 67 congressmen. He noted that the measure had been approved by the powerful Committee on Appropriations. “Everything is set for the eventual enactment of the bill into law,” he added.

Despite such optimism the fight against the bill continues. Pro-life Congressman Eduardo Zialcita tried to douse Lagman's optimism, saying the measure would face rough sailing once floor deliberations begin.

He accused the bill promoters of lying when they say the bill does not include abortion, which remains “a crime and is punishable.”

The Reproductive Health bill includes pregnancy termination, contraceptives (including condoms, contraceptive pills and intrauterine devices) for birth control and a “distorted vision” of sex education, practices that seem to favour promiscuity and free sex among the young who are under the illusion that condoms can protect them from risks. The bill also sets up a pre-natal emergency centre and provides for mobile health care services.

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said that the P150-billion budget (just over US$ 3 billion) for the implementation of the projects under the Reproductive Health Bill will be sufficient as a start-up fund. But “for the full implementation of the projects, the department would need more than the amount initially [. . .] allocated,” he said.

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