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Pulse Asia survey: 69% of Filipinos agree with RH bill

(Updated 9:24 p.m.) A considerable majority of Filipinos, 69 percent, agree with the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill pending in Congress, said pollster Pulse Asia. The Pulse Asia survey conducted in October, showed that:
  • 69 percent of those surveyed agree with the RH bill;
  • 7 percent opposed the bill; while
  • 24 percent could not say if they agree or disagree with the bill. Measuring the people's awareness about the bill, Pulse Asia said eight out of 10 Filipinos (80 percent) knew about the RH Bill currently pending in Congress. In Metro Manila, 90 percent of the respondents were aware of the bill. The level of awareness measured by the survey was higher in the best-off Class ABC than in the poorer Class E. Two out of 10 Filipinos only learned about the bill while being interviewed for the survey. Opposing the RH bill Those who disagreed with the RH bill were asked about their opinions on the provisions of the bill. The majority of those who disagreed accepted the following provisions of the RH bill:
  • recognizing the rights of women and couples to choose the family planning method that they want on the basis of their needs and personal and religious beliefs (79%);
  • promoting information about and access to natural and modern family planning methods (70%); and
  • stipulating the use of government funds to support modern family planning methods (55%). From among those who disagree with the bill, 44 percent disagree with the proposal to include 'Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education' in the school curricula. The survey fieldwork was conducted from October 20 to 29, 2010 using face-to-face interviews. The nationwide survey is based on a sample of 1,200 representative adults 18 years old and above. Population problem In Malacañang, President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III said the high percentage of Filipinos agreeing with the RH bill must mean that the public wants the government to help address the population problem. "Kung karamihan ng taumbayan tinatanaw na rin na meron tayo talagang problemang dapat ayusin, siguro diyan nagsisismula yung survey ng Pulse na kelangan nga naming pansinin at bigyan ng lunas yung problema natin sa populasyon na di naaruga ," Aquino told reporters on Tuesday. (If majority of the public believe that there is indeed a problem that needs to be solved, perhaps this is what the Pulse survey is about, that we have to address and solve our problem with a portion of the population that is not being taken care of.) However, Aquino said his stance on reproductive health is not based on poll figures. "I'm not gonna base any of my decisions or my stance on what the survey says," he said. Aquino reiterated his stance on for responsible parenthood, where couples are informed thoroughly of their parenting responsibilities as well as their reproductive health choices. Once the government has provided them comprehensive information, the government may also provide poor couples the birth control method they choose to use, he said. RH bill 96 Several versions of the RH bill have been filed in previous Philippine congresses. In the present Congress, the RH bill is known as "Bill 96" and the main proponent is Minority Leader Edcel Lagman of Albay. The RH bill is based on the premise that the country's population growth impedes economic development. The bill seeks to “guarantee to universal access to medically-safe, legal, affordable and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, supplies and relevant information." The bill also seeks a “consistent and coherent national population policy," citing studies that show that "rapid population growth exacerbates poverty while poverty spawns rapid population growth." Contentious issue The RH bill has been a contentious issue in the country because it pits two powerful sectors against each other: prolife groups (such as Catholic and Muslim groups opposing the RH bill) and prochoice groups (led by non-government organizations supporting the RH bill). It is estimated that 80 percent of the country's population are baptized Catholics. According to the National Statistics Office, there were 88.57 million Filipinos as of August 2007. The projected population for 2010 is 94.01 million. The Catholic Church promotes only natural family planning and is opposed to the use of artificial birth control methods such as condoms and birth-control pills, saying these could lead to promiscuity and a rise in abortion cases. RH advocates say natural family planning methods have not proven to be as reliable as artificial means of birth control. The Catholic Church accepts only natural family planning (NFP) methods. The NFP has two distinct forms:
    • Ecological breastfeeding (a form of child care that normally spaces babies about two years apart on the average)
    • Systematic NFP (a system that uses a woman’s signs of fertility to determine the fertile and infertile times of her cycle)
    Oppositors not disheartened Oppositors of RH bill in the House of Representatives, meanwhile, were not disheartened by the result of Pulse Asia survey. In a text message, Bacolod City Rep. Anthony Golez said the survey only showed that 69 percent of Filipinos are not informed about the danger of the health services the RH bill will offer to the people. He claimed that more than half of the services the bill offers were "abortifacients" or substances that induce abortion. Paranaque Rep. Roilo Golez, for his part, asked how the public could have an informed opinion on a bill they have not read. “I understand at least 90 percent of the folks have not read the RH bill. How can someone who has not read the bill have an informed opinion on the bill?" he said. Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles wondered if the public actually agrees with all provisions of the RH bill or just the concept. “If I ask you if you believe that our population must be properly managed, you would probably say yes, the concept of it sounds wise. But if I say that our population should be managed by committing abortion, you will probably give a different answer," he said in a text message. “Surveys are just tools. They do not provide absolute answers to complex social questions," he added. – with Amita O. Legaspi/VVP/RSJ/KBK, GMANews.TV