Monday, March 02, 2009

Academe Meets Government: The Reproductive Health Bill


The Reproductive Health Bill

Sponsors: UP Third World Studies Center, UP Department of Political Science

And the Office of the Chancellor (UP Diliman)

Date: March 6, 2009

Venue: Balay Kalinaw

University of the Philippines Diliman


A. Executive Branch

a. Ms. Alicia Bala

Undersecretary for Policy and Program

Department of Social Welfare and Development

B. Legislative Branch

a. Representative Edcel C. Lagman

1st District of Albay

Principal Sponsor, HB 5403 (RH Bill)

b. Representative Mary Ann L. Susano

2nd District of Quezon City

C. Academe

a. Dr. Josefina V. Cabigon

Professor, Population Institute

University of the Philippines Diliman

b. Dr. Ernesto M. Pernia

Professor, UP School of Economics

University of the Philippines Diliman


In what Herrin (2003) calls a “lack of national stable consensus on the Philippine government’s policy on population growth and fertility reduction”, the population issue has remained unresolved and vacillating between interest groups. A renewed interest in the “population problem” debate has re-surfaced with the introduction of HB 5043, otherwise known as “An Act Providing for a National Policy on Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development, and for other purposes”. Proponents suggest that the Bill is necessary to institute a national and comprehensive policy and program to manage the population and reproductive health needs of the country.

Several points of contention have been identified which cut across the factions’ ideological persuasions if not religious affiliation. Academics are also split between the interpretations of data at hand. Moreover, because of the bill’s supposed moral consequences, serious opposition has been mounted by pro-life/pro-family (read mainly Catholic Church) advocates. Similarly but on the other side, pro-quality of life/pro-choice groups have brought forth equal measure to defend the need to pass the bill.


In an effort to clarify the issues and to facilitate critical discussion and dialogue between contending schools of thought, the UP Third World Studies Center, together with the Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines, Diliman, offers a Public Forum on HB 5043 or the Reproductive Health Bill:

Initially, it seeks to provide information on the Reproductive Health Bill.

1. What are the pertinent provisions that the bill seeks to propose?

2. What are the key motivations or objections for passing a reproductive health bill?

More importantly the forum intends to generate probable responses to the following questions:

1. From a policy perspective:

a. Who are the real stakeholders in the Reproductive Health Bill?

b. What benefits or hazards are expected if the bill gets passed and how will it affect the stakeholders?

c. What mechanisms are in place to provide the expected benefits or to prevent the hazards?

d. How are the stakeholders reacting to the debate?

e. Amidst competing claims:

i. Is there a feasible framework to clarify the points of contention between these competing claims?

ii. Are there points of unity / consensus between groups?

iii. What mechanisms may be placed to come out with an acceptable reproductive health policy (if this is found to be necessary)?

2. Supporters of the RH bill argue that aside from the addressing the unmet need for reproductive health services of women, the bill anchored on the rationale that sustainable human development is better assured with a manageable population of healthy, educated and productive citizens. Given this:

a. What is the role of the State in the population debate? Is this role necessary given that the private sector can alternately provide reproductive health services?

b. Considering globalization and the neoliberal agenda in place, are the expected benefits of passing a reproductive health measure compatible with existing social policies in education and health?

c. Should the passage of the Reproductive Health bill be a necessary but not sufficient condition for economic growth, what corresponding conditions must be effected /implemented?

3. Is there an alternative to the RH Bill?

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