Philippines to offer free contraceptives to 6 million women on Duterte's order

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had said he will defy the Roman Catholic Church and seek to impose a three-child policy.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had said he will defy the Roman Catholic Church and seek to impose a three-child policy.PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered government agencies to ensure free access to contraceptives for 6 million women who cannot obtain them, officials said on Wednesday (Jan 11), in a move expected to put him on a collision course with the country's dominant Roman Catholic church.

"All women of reproductive ages should be able to achieve their desired family size, their desired number of children, rather than having more children than they want or they can afford and provide for adequately, and that is exactly the essence of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law," Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia told reporters at the Malacañang palace, Philippine media reported.

Pernia, who is also the director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), said the intensified drive to make contraceptives available and ensure "zero unmet need for family planning" is important to reduce poverty, reported the Associated Press.

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 Duterte's term in 2022.

Mr Duterte has said he will defy the Roman Catholic Church and seek to impose a three-child policy.

The executive order the president signed on Monday said out of the 6 million women with unmet needs for modern family planning, 2 million have been identified as poor, reported AP.

The 2 million women should have access to them by 2018, and all the rest thereafter, the order added.

It also directs government agencies to locate couples with unmet family planning needs, mobilise agencies up to the village level and partner with civil society in intensifying the drive, reported AP.

It cited Mr Juan Antonio Perez, executive director of the Commission on Population, as saying the growth of Philippines' population, now at 104 million, may be reduced to 1.4 per cent from the current 1.7 per cent if the campaign is fully implemented by 2022.