Do The Reproductive Health Bill Affect the Poverty in the Philippines?

With the Reproductive Health Bill was signed on December 21, 2012 by President Benigno Aquino III, it is now known as Republic Act 10354. So it’s almost 2 years now since the bill is being enacted. The question is, did that really improved the lives of the Filipino people?  Has it somehow contribute on reducing poverty?

With the title in mind, I’m trying to analyze if it actually did.  Now let’s focus on the poverty in the Philipppines.

Poverty and Population

According to the data from the National Statistical Coordination Board, more than one-quarter (27.9%) of the population fell below the poverty line the first semester of 2012, an approximate 1 per cent increase since 2009.

Given that the population of the Philippines is increasing at a rate of 1.7% per year, this can be translated as an increase of more than 5,000 people daily in a country that already has an increase of more than four million poor people since 1985. In 1985, the absolute number of people living in poverty was 26.5 million. This increased to 30.4 million in 2000 and from 2006 to 2009, increased by almost 970,000 Filipinos from 22.2 million to 23.1 million.

As the Philippines has financially limited resources and a high poverty rate, the rapid increase in population has become a problem because there is insufficient resources to support the population, which leaves much fewer resources to improve the economy. From 2003 to 2006, even though the Philippines experienced above-average economic growth, the poverty incidence increased as a result of its population growth rate

Poverty reduction has not kept up with GDP growth rates, largely due to the high unemployment rate, high inflation rate and wide income inequality. The official rate of unemployment for 2012 in the Philippines was 6.8 per cent.

So to simplify, our country, with the rapid rate of the population can’t keep up and support its people. As the population go up, the poverty expands. To balance this, for me, there are actually two main options:  our country should raise the employment rate thus giving people jobs so they can able to work it out and feed their families on daily basis or control the population rate.

Going back to our economy, Philippine economic growth accelerated to 7.2 percent in 2013 despite of the Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) and some natural disasters during that year. Our country’s strong macroeconomic fundamentals supported domestic demand and shielded the economy from the lingering weakness of the global economy. Robust performance of consumption fueled by strong remittances and services, supported by inverstment and manufacturing expansion, boosted growth. Private consumption grew by 5.6%, while private construction also grew by 8 percent due to low interest rates and strong demand for office and residential spaces by workers in the business process outsourcing industry.

Still on poverty, poverty incidence of the population barely improved from 26.3 percent in 2009 to 25.2 percent in 2012. It’s like saying that the higher growth has yet to benefit many of the poor. Natural calamities brought about by climate change have also pushed millions of Filipinos into poverty. Underlying the slow progress in poverty reduction is the lack of good jobs. 75 percent of workers or some 28 million Filipinos are informally employed with little or no protection from job losses and opportunities to find gainful employment.

So what gives? Now, how could the RA 10354, or the Reproductive Health Bill improvise this? What exactly is the Reproductive Health Law. The title of the law , on Section 1, says that the act shall be known as “The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012”. So, it does says “Responsible Parenthood”. Well, the funny thing is, does the parents need the state to tell them to be responsible on parenting? Somehow, that’s a little weird.

Anyway, according to popular belief, with the RA 10354 enacted, it will give the people access to such as birth control and other contraceptives. Thus giving women right to have a choice if they want to conceive a child or not. And for me, is just right. Women should be given that right.

But for the whole nation, isn’t Family Planning already took effect before the RH Bill? We already have access to contraceptives before this. Condoms and lubricants are being sold to every 24 hour mart. Some health centers are giving it for free. And with Family Planning, sex education is already open especially on health centers and I remember when my teacher taught me the reproductive system works when I was in Grade 6.

Honestly, I am not against the RH Bill’s content. I am also Pro-Choice. Pro-choice in contraceptives, I mean. The thing that I am against of is it being enacted as a law when there are pre-existing laws already. I mean, that’s another bill which needs to be funded by tax payers. Also the implementation of the law, I don’t see any changes to our education or does it make any of the youth respect sex and reduced the teen pregnancy. We’re all still the same. Or maybe, the effect may not that immediate and it might take decades until we see some significant changes.

Bottom line, the effect is yet to be felt. Between the two: Raising the employment rate and controlling the population, I’d rather go with the employment rate. The only key here to expand the economy and really decrease the poverty is to invite more investors in the contrary and open more job opportunities to Filipinos. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m against the content of RH Bill. It’s just that, if we’re talking about reducing the poverty. I don’t think RH Law is the solution.


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