07/29/2008, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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President Arroyo with bishops in fight "for life"

by Santosh Digal
During yesterday's address on the "state of the nation", the head of state stressed the "promotion of natural family planning methods", denouncing the "pro-abortion" policies supported by some in parliament. A scholar accuses the UN of pressure over birth control.

Manila (AsiaNews) - "By promoting natural planning and female education, we have curbed population growth to 2.04 percent during our administration, down from the 2.36 in the 1990s, when artificial birth control was pushed". Filipino president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo made this statement yesterday during her annual speech to the House of Representatives on the "state of the nation" (SoNA), aligning herself openly with the Catholics and welcoming the invitation from the bishops conference to fight in defense of life, from its conception.

Arroyo stressed her position in favor of natural family planning methods - effective in combating  excessively rapid population growth - and denounced the massive campaign aimed at promoting the use of artificial contraception, including condoms.

"Informed choice", said the president, a practicing Catholic and a mother of three, "should mean letting more couples, who are mostly Catholics, know about natural family planning", proven to be effective by scientific studies. Arroyo recalled the previous policy on the family supported by president Fidel Ramos, a Protestant, which favored the use of contraceptives; a mistaken policy unable to achieve the objective of regulating births. The current head of state finally dismissed the speculation according to which it is necessary to limit population growth, because of insufficient food resources: "Rice production since 2000 increased an average of 4.07 percent a year, twice the population growth rate", Arroyo confirmed, citing official data.

In recent weeks, the Filipino Catholic Church had repeatedly restated its opposition to the law under consideration in parliament, which promotes the use of artificial contraception and favors the legalization of abortion. On July 25, at the Dominican University of St. Thomas, a prayer vigil presided over by the bishops saw the participation of more than 12,000 faithful who demonstrated their disagreement with Reproductive Health (RH). Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, the archbishop of Manila, invited the couples present to "exercise discipline and self-control", recalling that a lack of rigor in the sexual sphere has repercussions in all other aspects of the couple's life, undermining its foundations. "If there is discipline in the marital bed", the prelate affirmed, "then there is discipline in the streets, there is discipline in schools, there is discipline in the government", emphasizing the close connection between sexuality and the life of the social community, of which it is a reflection.

Edcel Lagman, the main RH promoter, says that "the president’s endorsement of natural family planning is her choice and we respect that", but stresses his support for the law on family planning, which must be "free" and guaranteed for "all couples in the country". This position is forcefully rejected by the bishops, according to whom the issues of human life are not part of the political sphere, but a "question of morality".

The Filipino bishops' conference appreciates the speech given by the head of state, but is waiting for concrete measures, beginning with the rejection of the "pro-abortion" law. The bishops also cite a study carried out by Stephen M. Krason, president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists and a professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, in the United States, according to which the birth rate in the country has declined steadily since 1970, and will be under two children per couple by 2030. He denounces, finally, the coercive policies in the matter of birth control favored by the United Nations Population Fund, the leading promoter and funding source for population control in the Philippines.

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