Countdown to Gold

"POPCOM 50th Anniversary"

February 19, 2019


By Sheila Crisostomo


MANILA, Philippines - On Valentine’s Day, the Department of Health (DOH) is reminding the public to be faithful to their partners as having many could be really stressful.

“Our advocacy this year is ‘Be careful with you heart.’ Be faithful to your partner, reduce your stress and enjoy life more,” said Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial in a press briefing yesterday.

DOH Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo said couples should also take precautions, like using condoms, if they do not plan on having children or adding to those they already have.

“If you plan to get pregnant at this time that we are not certain about Zika, we also encourage protected sex even among couples,” Bayugo added.

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Although the DOH is not giving out condoms in today’s Valentine’s celebrations, Ubial noted that the agency has been providing these through local government units and other health sector partners. 

“This is a continuing advocacy – to continue providing condoms, particularly to the ‘at risk’ population,” Ubial added.

The DOH is also advising the public to go on a “heart-friendly diet.”

“Instead of buying your sweetheart an overload of cakes, sweets and fatty food, why not give a more permanent gift? A poem, letter or message may convey more feelings,” Ubial said.

If asked for chocolates, she recommends the “dark chocolate with less sugar and caramel added.”

“Dark chocolate should be made up of at least 60 to 70 percent cocoa. It has flavonoids and antioxidants that are good for the heart and blood vessels. Eat only a moderate amount, approximately an ounce or around 30 grams a day,” Ubial specified.

She also said that home cooking is still healthier than eating in restaurants.

Meanwhile, Nueva Ecija Bishop Roberto Mallari advised parents to chaperone their minor children or those aged 18 years and below when they go out on dates.

He believes that chaperones or guardians could guide the young.

“They should not only guard their children on Valentine’s Day but even during school activities,” Mallari said, adding that parents should not miss out on their child’s important life events, like the activities in school.

“At times, the end result is the child who is craving for parental attention would seek attention elsewhere. This is why parents should take their roles seriously,” he added. 

Parents, he said, should also advise their children to avoid going to dark places to avoid temptation. – With Evelyn Macairan, Rhodina Villanueva

By Charina Clarisse L. Echaluce


This Valentine’s Day, the Department of Health (DOH) has this advice to lovers: Please be careful with your heart.

The DOH also announced that it will not distribute condoms in public places today.

Choose heart-healthy gifts or practice a healthy lifestyle instead of buying cakes and sweets, the DOH added.

“A poem, letter or message may convey more feeling,” Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said as she spearheaded the celebration of Heart Month this February with the theme ‘Gulay at Prutas Araw-Arawin, Matamis, Mamantika, at Maalat Hinay-Hinayin.’

If one really wants to buy chocolates as gifts, choose dark chocolate which has flavonoids, antioxidants, which are good for the heart and blood vessels.

The public was also advised to be active on Valentine’s Day.

“Plan an outing or walk around a park or mall. Walking for 30 minutes is good for your heart,” Ubial said.

In addition, she said that home cooking is healthier than restaurant food.

“Instead of an expensive restaurant date, why not cook at home and enjoy a romantic dinner for two. For example, you can eat fish like tuna, mackerel, bangus and salmon. If you still want to go to a restaurant for a date, splitting your meal can cut your calorie intake in half,” the health official stated.

Giving fresh fruits is also advised.

“If you want to eat something sweet, local fresh fruits in season are the healthier choice,” Ubial stated.

Moreover, she said, it would be better if one would encourage his/her partner not to smoke.

“If your sweetheart is a smoker, encourage him or her to quit smoking. Smoking can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Hence, quitting is the best Valentine’s Day gift for your loved one,” the DOH chief noted.

According to the World Health Organization Report on Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Country Profiles 2014, deaths related to NCDs in the Philippines are attributed to cardiovascular diseases (33 %), cancer (10 %), diabetes (6%), and chronic respiratory diseases (5%).

No condom-distribution day

Ubial maintained that the DOH has no plans to distribute condoms today but made it clear that the “DOH provides condoms everyday not just only during Valentine’s Day and it is being provided through the LGUs, our partners in the health sectors. So yan po ay continuous, ‘yung ating pagpo-provide ng condoms particularly sa at risk population but it is through health centers,” she said.

Going to motels

Health Undersecretary Gerard Bayugo advised couples going to motels and hotels to get reservations in order to avoid stress.

“Para ‘di ka stress at pipila ka pa, advance your booking through the internet. We will support NGOs and LGUs who will be taking the Valentine’s celebration as an opportunity for promoting condom used,” he stated.

“If you don’t have plans of getting pregnant, that is the best way, one of the best ways, to prevent pregnancy. We are also not certain about Zika so we encourage protected sex even among couples,” he added.


Nueva Ecija Bishop Roberto Mallari advised parents to chaperone their children especially those below 18 years old to get to know the person that their child is going out with.

Mallari, who is the head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education, said it’s also an opportunity to teach the youth how to deal with the opposite sex.

“They should be taught the right way of dealing with one another. Our conviction is the only way to relate is to love and communicate with one another,” Mallari said.

The prelate said parents should always be there to support and guide their children in all their activities so they won’t look for attention elsewhere.

“It’s not only this Valentine’s Day that they should be present but also in the other activities of their child in school. Sometimes they are not there in important events like Graduation Day that’s why the child looks for attention elsewhere,” Mallari said.

Avoid dark places

To those going out without any chaperone, the CBCP advised them to avoid temptation by not going to dark places

“We have to avoid temptation. It’s important that the youth is aware of this. They should know their own limitation. They should know that everybody is prone to be tempted. It’s best to avoid places where we will be tempted so easily,” said Mallari.

St. Valentine

The Catholic faithful pays tribute to the memory of the revered patron saint of lovers – Saint Valentine (San Valentin) with special masses and prayers today in several Catholic churches in the country and in many parts of the world in memory of the holy priest and illustrious Roman martyr. In the country, mass weddings and renewal of marriage vows are common practices held on Valentine’s Day.

The observance of St. Valentine’s feast was established by Pope Gelasius I on Feb. 14, 496 A.D. in memory of a kind-hearted Roman priest who was arrested, clubbed, and eventually beheaded for marrying soldiers who were forbidden to marry, ministering to Christians, giving aid to martyrs in prison, and for refusing to renounce his faith during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, a time when Christians were severely persecuted.

According to accounts, St. Valentine, while still in jail, was able to convert his jailer to Christianity after he restored the eyesight of his blind daughter. Before St. Valentine was beheaded on Feb. 14, 269, he wrote a farewell note to her and signed it, “From Your Valentine.” He was buried at the Flaminian Way in Rome, Italy, where a basilica was built in his honor and memory. (With reports from Christina I. Hermoso and Leslie Ann G. Aquino)

THE Department of Health (DOH) yesterday assured critics, including the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), that it is not giving away condoms to the public on Valentine’s Day.

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said there will be no repeat of the 2010 activity, when condoms were given to customers of the Dangwa Flower Market in Manila.

“We will continue with our provision of condoms, particularly to the at-risk population. But it is through health centers,” said Ubial.

She said, though, that this does not mean that the DOH is discouraging its non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as local government units (LGUs) from giving  condoms.

“We will even support those who will be taking advantage of the Valentine’s Day celebration as an opportunity for promoting condom use,” said Ubial.

Back in 2010, the DOH led the distribution of condoms in Dangwa, Manila on Valentine’s Day as part of its campaign versus the spread of HIV/AIDS.

In the   project, those who bought flowers were given coupons, which will enable them to redeem condoms at the DOH booth.

In a related development, the DOH advised the public to celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving heart-friendly gifts and sharing healthy meals.

The DOH said instead of buying an overload of cakes, sweets, and fatty foods, giving a poem, letter, or message may convey more feelings.

Also in buying chocolates, it urged the public to choose dark chocolate with less sugar and caramel as they contain flavonoids, and antioxidants, which are good for the heart.

The DOH also said home cooking would offer healthier food than those from restaurants as they can opt for dinner of tuna, mackerel, bangus, and salmon.

If a restaurant date remains to be the choice, the DOH said couples should consider splitting the meal in two in order to be able to cut their calorie intake.

Finally, the public is encouraged to maintain physical activity by planning an outing or by walking around a park or mall.

“This Valentine’s Day, the public is reminded to choose a heart-healthy gift or practice a healthy lifestyle and diet to keep one healthy,” said Ubial.

For President Duterte, Valentine’s Day is also family day which he will spend in Davao City, special assistant to the President   Christopher “Bong” Go said.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the President will still be in Davao City Tuesday and would spend the day there.

Malacañang  said Duterte had no official engagement on Tuesday.

Ubial said Duterte is very healthy and capable of governing the country.

She said while Duterte has some health concerns, they are not enough to incapacitate him. –  Jocelyn Montemayor

Press Release
Valentine's Day Celebration
February 14, 2017        

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“Hindi required na sa Valentine’s Day mo ‘yan (virginity) ibigay, dapat sa inyong kasal ay matiyaga siyang maghintay.”

The Commission on Population (POPCOM) celebrates Valentine’s Day with Heart to H.E.A.R.T campaign on February 14, 2017 to create awareness on the increasing number of HIV/AIDS victims and teenage pregnancy in the country.

The campaign aims to talk about the H.E.A.R.T. issues of adolescents and teens such as:



E- Early Sexual Encounter

A – Adolescent Sexuality

R – Reproductive Health

T – Teenage Pregnancy

By Ding Cervantes


CLARK FREEPORT, Philippines – Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial wants to block pornographic websites in the country as a measure to curb the spread of HIV-AIDS especially among the youth.

In an interview with The STAR during the Dangerous Drugs Summit here yesterday, Ubial said she is no longer pushing the distribution of condoms among senior high school students, a measure seen to prevent the spread of HIV-AIDS among the youth.

“It was only an option raised for consideration,” she explained.

Instead, Ubial said she would just push for the government to undertake measures to ensure that pornographic websites do not get into the country’s internet system on the assumption that pornography accessed on smartphones encourages promiscuous behavior in the youth.

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“I will support anything that can curb the spread of HIV-AIDS,” she added.

Ubial also said she is considering the distribution of print materials showing actual photos of people with sexually transmitted diseases as another deterrent to sexual promiscuity among the youth.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is working with Gabriela, the Gabriela Women’s Party and women from marginalized sectors to join the annual “One Billion Rising” (OBR) global campaign, which this year focuses on the theme, “Solidarity Against Exploitation of Women”.

DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo on Wednesday, February 08 underscored the need to educate the Philippine society on women’s rights issues and the urgency of fighting and stopping the abuse and exploitation of women.

She lamented that many Filipinos, including women, take women’s rights for granted, and worse, take women’s abuse and exploitation as ordinary events.

“Women’s rights are issues that should be supported by all Filipinos — men and women alike. We all have mothers, sisters, wives, aunts, nieces, daughters, and partners,” she said.

”Abuses against women are not acceptable and never will be. There is no excuse for abusing and exploiting women, so we must all work together to promote women’s rights and help each other understand their importance.”

The DSWD, she said, continues to monitor the alarming number of cases of abuse and exploitation of women.

According to the department’s Policy Development and Planning Bureau (PDPB), a total of 2,797 women in especially difficult circumstances (WEDC) were served by the DSWD’s residential care facilities from January to September last year. The Haven for Women assisted 533 women; the Sanctuary Center, 232; and the Haven for Women and Girls, 74, for a total of 839.

Based on case category and region, the department monitored and provided assistance to 210,842 WEDC from January to September 2016. Some 127 were cases of sexual abuse (76 rape; 47 incest; and four acts of lasciviousness) and 232 were cases of sexual exploitation (227 cases of prostitution; once case of pornography; and four cases of cyber-pornography).

On the other hand, there were 318 cases of physical abuse and maltreatment; 250 cases of psychological and emotional abuse; 179 cases of illegal recruitment; and 367 cases of trafficking. Another 2,273 WEDC were served in residential and non-residential centers and community-based services, while 207,096 WEDC were provided with services from the department’s crisis intervention unit (CIU).

”All officials and employees in the DSWD central office are encouraged to attend the OBR pre-activity with the director of One Billion Rising, Monique Wilson, at the New DSWD Building lobby on February 13 and again on February 14 at the Liwasang Bonifacio,” said Taguiwalo.

Meanwhile, the social welfare chief also reiterated that women’s rights are always in the agenda in the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

“We ask all Filipinos to support the peace negotiations and to appeal to both sides to return to the negotiating table so they can put together a substantive agenda for peace in our country,” she said, adding that the continuation of the peace talks will help ensure that “a genuine pro-women agenda will be discussed and put together for the benefit of poor and marginalized Filipinas.”

One Billion Rising is a global movement, founded by Eve Ensler, to end rape and sexual and physical violence against women. The “billion” refers to the UN statistic that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, or about one billion. One Billion Rising is held every February in hundreds of countries across the world.

The Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Education (DepEd) have come to an agreement on the sensitive issue of condoms.

Secretary of Health Paulyn Ubial said Wednesday that the DOH respects the decision of the DepEd to carry out a reproductive health education program of instruction appropriate to the various age levels in the nation’s public schools – without distributing condoms as originally proposed.

The DOH had wanted to distribute the protective devices as part of a campaign to arrest the spread of HIV-AIDS – Human Imunodeficiency Virus–Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – following a sharp rise in HIV cases in the country. From 1984 to 2016, it said, 38,114 HIV cases were recorded in the country, with 10,279 of the cases involving young people aged 15 to 24 years old. It thought of doing the distribution through the nation’s public schools.

Secretary of Education Leonor Briones, however, said the DepEd will not be involved in condom distribution. What it can do, she said, is to strengthen the basic education curriculum, following UNESCO guidelines on reproductive health. It will focus on HIV information and education. No contraceptives of any kind will be distributed in school premises. The DOH has health centers which are already doing this, she said.

The condom-distribution plan through schools had been met with considerable opposition when it was first proposed. Instead of teaching school children safe sex, Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said, the schools should teach the values of marriage and family Quezon City Rep. Angelina Tan said it would not be proper to distribute condoms to high school students before teaching them proper values and sex education.

Now that the DOH has given up its original distribution plan, Secretary Ubial said it will work with other partners to ensure information is linked to service provision, which will not be limited to condom access. “We can stop HIV transmission trough a collective societal effort, focusing on widespread HIV awareness among the youth and vulnerable populations,” she said. The DOH will establish test and treatment centers all over the country. It will seek to end stigmatization and discrimination in work places.

This sounds like a more realistic and workable solution to the problem of rising HIV-AID cases in the country. The DepEd will carry out a program of information suitable to various age levels in the nation’s public schools. The DOH will set up test and service centers and work with other partners, such as business enterprises and civic organizations. In such a program, condoms may help but they surely are not the center of the anti-HIV-AIDS program, as the original plan seemed to be.

By Lee Ann P. Ducusin


THE Department of Health has noted that with the increasing number of human immunodeficiency virus or HIV cases in the Philippines every year, so does the number of HIV-positive blood donors.

The DoH-December 2016 HIV/AIDS and Antiretroviral Therapy Registry showed that the number of HIV-positive blood units from donors increased in number in 2016.
The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine confirmed that 550 blood units were confirmed positive for HIV last year.
“This is a huge increase from the 456 HIV-positive blood units recorded in 2015. 
“In 2014, only 438 were confirmed positive for HIV,” the DoH said.
In 2016, a total of 9,264 were diagnosed with the deadly virus, more than a thousand than the previous year’s newly-diagnosed cases.
Meanwhile, the DoH and RITM said the blood units do not reflect the number of HIV-positive blood donors, because one donor can donate more than a unit of blood.
They also clarified that the increasing number should not be a cause for alarm since the blood supply remains safe and intact because the blood donated are first tested for HIV and other blood-borne infections.
“Once confirmed positive for HIV, the infected blood units are disposed of,” the DoH explained.
According to the report, blood donors are screened prior to the procedure.
Doctors check if the donors have hypertension, are under the influence of alcohol, have tattoos, uses injectable drugs, or has had a risky sexual encounter that may affect the blood.
However, the HIV test is not included in the screenings.
A DoH official explained that the law does not allow forced HIV tests in any circumstance. 
The official said HIV tests are taken voluntarily.
“Kung gusto mo malaman ‘yung status mo, you go to a doctor because you have to get counseling and that’s a different process,” said Eric Yaga, Director IV of the Bureau of Local Health Systems Development.
Yaga said more and more Filipinos are unaware of their status, or that they are at risk.
“May mga tanong naman sa screening, so, ibig sabihin you are in denial that you are at risk so you opted for na mag-donate pa rin,” Yaga said.

By Janvic Mateo and Evelyn Macairan

MANILA, Philippines -  Students should be taught how to use condoms and be provided with the necessary skills and information on how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy, National Youth Commission (NYC) chair Aiza Seguerra said.

Reacting to the decision not to distribute condoms in schools, Seguerra said the Department of Education (DepEd) should ensure that teachers diligently follow the sex education curriculum approved by the government.

“We respectfully appeal that our teachers be more diligent in teaching sex education and teach the students how to protect themselves,” Seguerra told The STAR in Filipino.

“We’ve had reports that even if it is part of the curriculum, these are still not taught and are being avoided because there are teachers who think it is taboo. We cannot protect our young people if we do not give them the right information,” added the NYC chief.

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But a Catholic bishop thanked the DepEd for rejecting the plan of the Department of Health (DOH) to distribute condoms in schools.

Calling officials not to turn on a blind eye on the rising number of early sexual encounters among the youth, Seguerra called on DepEd to ensure that students be taught about safe sex – “specifically condom skills” – and refer them to facilities and organizations where they can have access to the prophylactic.

The NYC chair also stressed the role of parents in protecting children from the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

“Please protect and arm your children with the right information so they can decide correctly (for themselves),” Seguerra said.

Last week, Education Secretary Leonor Briones ruled out the proposal of the DOH to distribute condoms to students, saying the department would not be part of such moves as its role is primarily to enhance gender sensitivity and reproductive health education through the strengthening and review of the basic education curriculum.

“Nothing within the school premises because right now you have the health centers who are already tasked with that function,” Briones said.

Briones said DepEd would work toward improving reproductive health education in public schools, such as the inclusion of discussions on the consequences and dangers of pre-marital sex.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel on Tuesday, the DepEd chief noted that condoms are not the only way to prevent teenage pregnancy and the spread of HIV.

“We encourage students who are sexually active to abstain. If not, we encourage them to talk to their guidance counselors,” Briones said, noting that the children under their care are minors.

“We are also encouraging peer exchange of experience as students may be hesitant to talk to their parents or teachers,” she added.

Welcome move

San Jose Nueva Ecija Bishop Roberto Mallari said he was pleased that the DepEd turned down the moves of the DOH to hand out condoms inside school campuses.

“Thank God. What would happen to the children if they would be given condoms in schools. The DepEd is more in a position to know what is good for our children,” Mallari said.

5th ARC Young Leaders Camp: Inspiring and nurturing leaders

Forty student-participants coming from state universities and public colleges throughout the country like FEU, PUP, Jose Rizal University and Pamantasan Lungsod ng Maynila were recently given life-changing opportunities at this year’s ARC Young Leaders Camp (ARCYLC) as they undertook a one-of-a kind leadership training program with some of the country’s movers and change-makers. 

The ARCYLC is a youth leadership program of ARC Refreshments Corp., the licensed bottler of RC Cola International (RCCI) in the Philippines, which aims to bring forth high potential, underprivileged student achievers who could very well be the country’s leaders in the future.
Since its inception in 2012, the annual flagship corporate social responsibility program of ARC has dynamically evolved, continuously planting the seeds of leadership among the Filipino youth. The theme for this year is “Inspiring dreamers to become leaders.”

“ARC knows that inspiring and nurturing these students (who cannot afford the high participation fee on leadership camps) could certainly make an impact in their lives and inspire them to promote positive change,” explains Gerry T. Garcia, ARC Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. 
Garcia further revealed that for this year’s youth camp, the company has endeavored to cover more colleges, tapping 41 schools and inviting over 200 student applicants. These student hopefuls all went through a rigorous screening process, then shortlisted to about a hundred after undergoing a panel interview conducted by executives of ARC. 

“What had set these 40 camp delegates apart from the other applicants are their evident leadership qualities and their determination to finish school despite financial difficulties,” Garcia points out. “Majority of those chosen are also only able to attend school through scholarship programs provided by philanthropic individuals or organizations.”

This year’s delegates were housed at Camp Benjamin in Alfonso, Cavite, and had to undergo team discussions, experiential activities and reflections as part of the training.  They also got to interact with some of the country’s change-makers who gave them first-hand advice on how to create change and lead in their schools, in their communities and eventually, in society and the entire nation.
“What had set this year’s camp apart,” beamed Garcia, “is the fact that we have invited the best speakers from the four previous camps, choosing tried and tested speakers who can provide greater inspiration to the camp participants. For this year’s presenters, we have again invited one of the most well loved speakers at the first camp, a CNN Hero of the Year awardee, and Southeast Asia’s first awardee of an international children’s peace prize,” he added.
One other key highlight of this year’s program was the organizer’s decision to bring in past graduates of the camp to serve as peer mentors and inspirational speakers to the new batch. One of those invited to speak at this year’s youth camp was Salina Biene Teo of UST and one of ARCYLC’s very own home-grown alumni from batch 2015.

To get the latest updates, check out the ARC Young Leaders Camp community page at You can also visit the camp’s Facebook page at 
Photo shows participants to this year’s ARC Young Leaders Camp striking a pose with top executives of ARC Refreshments Corp. led by Garcia (front row, center), Ruel Aquino (right), National Sales Manager for Traditional Trade; Rizza Alfonso (4th from right), Senior Manager for Marketing Services; and  Butch Aves (2nd from left), Vice President for Technical Services.


-Tribune Wires

Press Release

National Population Quiz 2016


POPCOM conducts the National Population Quiz 2016


The Commission on Population will conduct the 2016 National Population Quiz (PopQuiz) on February 24, 2016 in General Santos City as part of the National Festival of Talents (NFOT).

With the theme SDG and the youth: addressing challenges and opportunities, PopQuiz aims to gauge high school students’ understanding in population, health and environment (PHE) issues.

In addressing PHE, POPCOM Executive Director Juan Antonio A. Perez III reiterated that young people should have a better perspective on how these issues are interconnected, how population dynamics affect the environment and how environmental change affects human’s health. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals highlights several issues related to population development which greatly affect young people. “The National PopQuiz is an advocacy tool of POPCOM to heighten awareness among the Filipino youth to mainstream population as a key factor for national development,” he stressed.

According to the 2014 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, more than one fourth of the Philippine population is living below the poverty threshold; with families living under undesirable conditions endangering the safety, health, wellbeing and future of their children. These families are mostly big families with more than three (3) children to support and with very little if not zero income to sustain their everyday lives.  Data show that the bigger the family, the more likely it is to be poor and several consequences branch out of this dire situation. Children can’t go to school. And when children can’t go to school, they remain ignorant of the many changes happening around them, especially in their bodies. With this lack of education, young people curiously engage themselves in different risky affairs such as vices and early sexual encounters; the latter being the most prevalent among adolescents below 18 years old. This situation is the cause of many other pressing issues among young people today.



CERVICAL cancer is one of the most curable types of cancer but despite this, it still ranks as one of the leading causes of death among Filipino women today. According to the Department of Health (DOH), while the number of cases of cervical cancer is decreasing in developed countries like the United States, it is on the rise in the Philippines.

Cervical cancer is commonly caused by the Human Papillomavirus. The HPV 16 and 18 viruses are commonly associated with the prevalence of cervical cancer among Filipino women. Risky sexual practices, sexual intercourse at young ages, use of injectable contraceptives and even smoking are identified as the reasons for the development of this disease. 

Though cervical cancer can be fatal if not caught in its early stages, it is very treatable and can easily be detected through a Pap Smear test. A Pap Smear Test or Pap Test is a simple procedure that tests the presence of abnormal cells in the cervix, lower part of the uterus which, according to doctors, is actually a very big help in bringing down cervical cancer cases.

 “It is alarming that despite the availability of this the Pap Smear Test, many women are still not getting it as regularly as they should,” said Carmie De Leon, vice president for sales and marketing of Healthway Medical.

In observance of Women’s Month, Healthway Medical, the country’s most trusted and leading mall-based clinic, is one with the government in enjoining women to combat cervical cancer by making the public aware of the need to undergo Pap Smear Test.

“As our mission of making men and women aware of the importance of making healthy living part of every day lifestyle, we encourage women to take the Pap Smear Test every year or every 2 years.

Healthway Medical offers this test in all our clinics in Metro Manila.” De Leon added.

She also adds that women should not be embarrassed to undergo the test insisting that the Pap Smear Test is relatively simple and poses no great discomfort.

Doctors advise that women 22 years old and above should undergo pap smear every year or once every three years, particularly when results are negative for three consecutive years. This ensures that the cancer is detected early while it is still treatable.

In another study done by the ICO Information Center on HPV and Cancer, 30.3M women in the Philippines ages 15 and above are at risk of developing cervical cancer.

-Malaya Business Insight

Press Release
POPCOM's 47th Anniversary


[email protected]: Working towards happy, healthy, and empowered Filipino families.

The Commission on Population (POPCOM) will celebrate its 47th year anniversary on February 19, 2016 with the theme [email protected]: Working towards happy, healthy, and empowered Filipino families.

For 47 fruitful years, POPCOM has committed itself to the empowerment of Filipino families thru responsible parenting, quality health, education and population and development integration.

In 2015, POPCOM is proud to have reached 843,381 couples out of the 800,000 target thru Responsible Parenthood-Family Planning classes resulting in an overwhelming 105.42% turnout. Furthermore, out of the couples reached, those in reproductive age increased in turnout from 751,993 in 2014 to 842,599 in 2015.

An innovative FP Logistics Hotline team was also established at POPCOM-Central Office where Family Planning (FP) inventory and consumption reports were monitored and stocks from the Department of Health (DOH) were checked regularly if they’ve reached the intended Rural Health Units (RHUs). To date, the Hotline has contacted 783 out of the total 1,643 RHUs in the country, which resulted in better allocation and distribution of FP stocks as some units reported to have insufficient stocks while some have more than enough.   

Aside from this, POPCOM has developed and disseminated different Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials such as posters, comics and brochures for 4Ps beneficiaries, schools, RHUs and hospitals.

POPCOM’s international partnerships have also been sustained thru the South-South Cooperation (SSC) Initiative for Good Practices in Family Planning, Reproductive Health and Gender Mainstreaming, with meetings regularly conducted here and in Indonesia. Indonesians have been studying the decentralization of FP and Reproductive Health (RH) in the country while action plans on FP and Family Development in municipalities of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have already been running.

Ilocos Norte honors young achievers

One hundred sixty-two youth achievers from Ilocos Norte were recognized through the Sirib Youth Awards by the provincial government.

The young people were honored Feb. 13 at the Emelda Cultural Center in Batac City “for bringing honor to the province and inspiring their fellow to harness their world-class talents and skills.”

Young achiever. A girl receives the Sirib Youth Award in Ilocos Norte. 

Ilocos Norte Youth Office OIC June Arvin Gudoy said “the Sirib Youth Awards aims to recognize young Ilocanos who brought prestige to the province through their participation in various national and international competitions.”

The awardees came from different fields including academics, leadership, sports, journalism, culture and arts.

They were led by international awardee Mhage Gerriahlouh Sebastian of Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte who won in the 16th Asean Age Group Chess Championship.

Special awards were also given to board exam topnotchers including Carlo Magno Vistro (Top 8 of Nursing Licensure Examination on June 2015), Dennis Pungtilan (Top 10 of Registered Master Electrician Licensure Examination in September 2015) and Danah Mae Arzadon (Top 6 of Nursing Licensure Exam in November 2015).

The awarding was part of the celebration of Ilocos Norte’s 198th Foundation Anniversary. 

Gov. Imee Marcos said that as Ilocos Norte gears up for its bicentennial anniversary on 2018, it is important to highlight the involvement of the Ilocano youth in achieving sustainable development.

Along with certificates of recognition, medals and trophies, the youth achievers received cash incentives from the provincial government. Coaches and advisers of winning participants were also recognized.

On behalf of her fellow awardees, Sebastian expressed her gratitude to Marcos for her continuous support to the Ilocano youth and for further inspiring them to pursue great achievements. “Salamat po sa pagpapahalaga niyo sa simpleng kontribusyon namin sa bayan. Sana patuloy niyo pong isulong ang kapakanan naming mga kabataan upang mas lalo pang mahasa ang mga talento namin at sa gayon patuloy po kaming makapagbigay-karangalan sa bayan.”

John Lester Alos, champion in the 17th Inkblots National Campus Journalism Fellowship Newswriting Category who is also a beneficiary of PGIN’s Iskolar ni Manang Imee Program, also thanked the governor for the endless opportunities she is giving to the Ilocano youth. He further expressed his desire to serve the province in the future.

- The Standard



The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) said from 2015 through 2050, the economic cost of climate change to the country is estimated at P71 billion annually.

In its study “The Economy-Wide Impacts of Climate Change on Philippine Agriculture”, IFPRI said the expected decline in yield for major crops is between 0.9-2.2 percent for rice, and 0.1-12.6 percent for corn.

Because of lower production the study estimated that by  2030, 1.4 million Filipinos will be at higher risk of going hungry.

The Paris-based IFPRI said climate change scenarios played out to 2030 and 2050 in the Philippines show a reduction in average per capita consumption of cereals by 24 percent and fruits and vegetables by 13 percent—increasing the number of people at risk of hunger by 1.4 million in 2030 and 2.5 million by 2050.

In a statement issued ahead of the Global Landscapes Forum the IFPRI projected an even bigger estimate of economic costs, estimated at an annual average of P186 billion or $4.3 billion.

IFPRI also cited the large negative effects of climate change on the rest of the Philippine economy include increased international commodity prices that result in terms of trade and real exchange rate losses and reduced growth in industrial and service sectors and consumer welfare.

But the same study also shows that policies and investments can dramatically reduce these negative impacts. Increased investment in agricultural research and irrigation to boost rice and other crop productivity growth shows significant impact in reducing the negative climate effects.

The latest 2016 Climate Change Vulnerability Index identified The Philippines as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.  it remains “extremely” vulnerable to climate change, and is ranked the 13th most climate-vulnerable country in the world. 

This 2016, 85 percent of the country will experience severe droughts, with the agricultural sector the most vulnerable to its impact.

Agriculture company Monsanto quoted the findings of these studies as it pushes climate-smart farming practices that would allow farmers to grow food efficiently while conserving natural resources.

“Local farmers face serious challenges in producing our food, as they can no longer predict the shift in wet and dry seasons. Harvests of the country’s most important food staples, such as rice and corn, are predicted to decline significantly, putting the burden on our farmers who struggle to make balanced meals accessible to all,” said Sandro Rissi, Monsanto Philippines country lead.

Companies like Monsanto have cited the  need to adapt to the changing climate and equip  farmers with the right tools. The climate-smart farming practices cited by Monsanto are: cover crops, reduced ploughing, biotechnology and data science.
-Irma Isip

Garin tells women not to get pregnant
By Macon Ramos-Araneta



HEALTH Secretary Janette Garin advised women not to get pregnant this year, amid fears that the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which continues to spread rapidly across Latin America, can cause abnormalities in their babies.

“Get pregnant next year, when we already have more knowledge about this virus,” Garin said in an interview on radio dzMM. 

Much remains unknown about Zika and its potential link to 4,300 suspected cases of microcephaly, a condition marked by abnormally small head size, Garin said.

She also reminded the public to avoid going to countries hit by the virus, which may hide in organs protected by the immune system. 

“Travelers who contracted the disease abroad may then transmit the virus sexually to their partners,” Garin said, noting that those infected by the virus might show no symptoms.

DoH consultant Dr. Willy Ong said the Health Department should start testing Filipino workers returning from Latin America for the Zika virus.

“We cannot say we are Zika-free if we have not tested our OFWs and our people for Zika,” he said.

“How many Filipnos have we tested for Zika? How many are negative?” Ong said.

“I have received dozens of messages from OFWs in Latin America, asking what they should do once they return to the country. They are concerned that they maybe carrying the Zika virus. They want to protect their family,” further said Ong.

In Honduras, he said, a Filipino worker was infected with the virus and was cared for by his relatives, who will be returning to the Philippines soon.

“I know that we only have 1,000 Zika kits at the moment. But if we had one positive Zika case, I am sure that WHO [World Health Organization] will immediately send us more Zika kits,” he said. 

“Recently, China, Thailand, Taiwan and Australia have reported Zika cases. In Australia, a pregnant woman tested positive for Zika. If these countries are testing their people for Zika, why can’t we?” he added.

Ong noted that the WHO manual on crisis management states that the most important rule is to be completely honest and transparent—and to never downplay a threat.

“Because once the public loses trust in the government, then rumors will fly and it will be hard for the government to regain the public’s trust. I urge the DoH to start checking some barangays for Zika virus, especially those pregnant with symptoms of fever and rashes. I believe that Zika may already be here... We are just not testing our people yet,” Ong said.

So far, the country has had one confirmed case in Cebu in 2012.

Ong said he had gathered 14 cases of microcephaly in the Philippines, ages 1 and below. “It could be some other cause or it could be Zika,” he said.

Garin said the Health Department continues to study the virus and to find ways to prevent its entry into the country.

She said they have started training several hospitals on how to detect possible Zika cases using new machine testing kits.

Among these hospitals are the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Baguio General Hospital, Mindanao Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Hospital, San Lazaro Hospital and the Lung Center of the Philippines.

Symptoms of the Zika disease include rashes, fever for more that two days, conjunctivitis and muscle weakness.

Garin also stressed the importance of keeping the surroundings clean to stop the virus-carrying mosquitoes from breeding. 

Zika, which has spread to 29 countries, was also linked to to neurological disease Guillain-Barre syndrome.

The World Health Organization estimates Zika could eventually affect as many as four million people. Colombia alone expects up to 600,000 cases this year.

A specialist in infectious diseases said it is important for arriving passengers to fill up the health declaration checklist upon their arrival in the Philippines.

“Declaring your travel history [in countries where emerging infectious diseases are spreading] is one way of protecting our loved ones,” said Dr. Arthur Dessie Roman, who is also a member of the Philippine College of Physicians and a fellow of Philippine Society of Microbiologist and Infectious Diseases.

A properly filled up health checklist declaration by travelers will help authorities manage and control the spread of possible diseases that they have contracted from their point of origin. With PNA

Insights in Resilience: Climate Change and Human Health

By Emilie Mazzacurati



The healthcare sector is often the first to witness the impacts of poor air quality, extreme weather patterns and other climate related hazards on the health of their community. From heat waves to floods and exposure to rapidly spreading vector borne illnesses like malaria, lyme disease and more recently the Zika virus, the nexus of climate change and human health gets stronger every day.

We asked our director of research, Nik Steinberg, to present his work to inform the healthcare industry about the effects of climate change and the trends he is observing in how healthcare professionals approach climate change.

1. Tell us more about your work with the healthcare industry and how you help them build resilience into their operations.

Last year, we built a new decision-support tool for hospitals across the United States. The work was fascinating because it combined systems analysis, climate science, and epidemiology. We started by identifying all the projected climate hazards within a hospital’s service area and then we sorted out the characteristics of those hazards – their projected frequency, severity, and timing. From there, we determined if the hazard was likely to impact the hospital itself and/ or the health and safety of the community. Next, we attempted to co-locate the hazards with exposed populations and facility systems to get a better idea which type of patients awee more exposed to heat waves and poor air quality, and where those patients lived.

This work is quite novel because it transforms something that once might have felt uncertain and ambiguous for some healthcare professionals — climate change impacts — and places it in context of their local hospital, community, and the people they interact with everyday.

We have observed that resilience building in the public health sector starts with a willingness and capacity to change – for whatever reason that may be. Our tool facilitates the information gathering and lays the foundation for an impact assessment, giving health professionals a defensible starting point and powerful communication tool on the local impacts of climate change on their patients.

2. What can healthcare professionals gain from learning about the risks of climate change, and your work specifically?

After our detailed research is complete, we step back and look for hotspots and correlations. Do future heat waves and poor air quality pose a considerable health risk to the community? Which patients are most exposed and where do they live? Is there a strong poverty-health connection in the community? How likely is it that heavy rainfall will become more severe over time and affect ambulatory services and hospital access?

These are the questions we try to address in our work so that hospitals can prioritize their resilience efforts and reach out to certain parts of the community or strengthen parts of the facility. Many healthcare professionals are aware of these climate-related risks and their connection to the communities they serve, but this work helps outline the linkages that connect climate change and health at a local level and assigns real numbers to the expected impacts of that dynamic connection.

3. What trends are you seeing at the nexus of human health and climate change?

Human health has always been influenced by climate and weather, but the growing frequency of extremes like drought and flood and extreme temperatures generates a whole new set of challenges. Take, for example, the recent spread of the Zika virus and the drought-flood cycles that led up to heavy downpours across much of Brazil, leaving pools, puddles, and ponds for mosquito breeding, and allowing the Aedes spp. mosquito to surge across the country and eventually the rest of the Americas.

Unfortunately, changing rainfall patterns, like many climate impacts, tend to have a disproportionate effect on the vulnerable. A similar story can be told about oppressive heat. Global temperature increases also mean more severe extreme temperature, and recent heat waves in India, Russia, and even the U.S. hit the poor and outdoor laborers the hardest. Changing weather patterns and shifting climate zones will also expose new populations to this type of weather.
Health effects are not always physical, and there is growing research showing the association between mental health and climate change. For illnesses like Lyme Disease or West Nile Virus, the mental health effects are very direct, but more often, the psychological responses to both disasters and acute ongoing impacts can induce a range of mental health consequences. I think the discussion around mental health and climate change will continue to grow as public health officials work to identify vulnerable populations and decipher the attribution of things like severe heat, poor air, and disasters to our well-being.

There are positive trends, however, in the way researchers and public health officials are tracing vulnerability and identifying pathways of exposure. The body of research at the nexus of public health and climate change is enormous and growing, and one of the most promising outcomes of this work is the story it tells. From hospital directors to policymakers, decision-makers understand that our community’s health calls for aggressive action on the public health front to minimize and respond to a range of imminent new threats that were once uncertain or distant.

Family planning only part of 'all-of-society' SDG approach — UNFPA chief

By Richard Jones


Family planning is crucial to the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, as a crosscutting issue that impacts targets on health, gender, youth and more.

In short, it cannot be isolated as a stand-alone problem simply because it encompasses all sectors of society, according to United Nations Undersecretary-General and U.N. Population Fund Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.

“The all-of-society approach is exactly what the SDGs are about,” Osotimehin explained in an interview with Devex associate editor Richard Jones on the sidelines of the recent International Conference on Family Planning in Nusa Dua, Indonesia.

Below are more excerpts from that conversation with the UNFPA chief, including how the U.N. agency’s work on family planning has been affected by the refugee crisis.

Family planning has been described as one of the best investments towards achieving the SDGs in terms of saving and improving lives? How are you working to ensure that it is implemented not only in health and gender equality circles, but cutting across all sectors and intervention areas towards the implementation of Agenda 2030?

If Agenda 2030 is to succeed, the main engine of growth is going to be our young people. Of this group, the most important is the 3-year-old girl from Arusha, Tanzania. We must enable her to go to school, stay at school, receive comprehensive education — not just numeracy and literacy — including comprehensive sexuality education, protecting her rights so she doesn’t get married off at 15 or undergo female genital mutilation, and bringing her to potential maturity at 18-22 when she can decide what job or studies she wants to do, give her access to credit if she wants to start a business, decide who she wants to marry and how many children she wants to have — if she wants to marry and have children. If we achieve this, then Agenda 2030 is achieved.

How are you avoiding working in silos at the U.N. level? And if family planning is truly one of the most effective and cost-effective investments towards the SDGs, are you winning the argument?

There’s no way you can do what I described without working together. I chose the example of the girl from Arusha because you cannot move on all of those goals, without also making progress on the goal of society. The all-of-society approach is exactly what the SDGs are about.

Sexuality education and access to services is something that many governments do not want to address because there are tensions, but that’s where civil society, including peer-led youth organizations, comes in — to provide not only services, but information. This can remove the problem of youth not wanting to go to service delivery centers.

In South Africa, for example, abortion is legal but there are still illegal abortions [taking place] because kids don’t want to go to a hospital and come face to face with a midwife who’s their auntie, or lives in their neighborhood so they still go to these backwater places where they shouldn’t go. I think there’s therefore a need for a coordinated system to enable young people to have access to information and services.

How can UNFPA and its partners intensify efforts to ensure that no one is left behind?

Sustainability comes from systems that work in-country, it doesn’t come from us. If Ebola broke out in Ethiopia or Rwanda, we would not see what happened in [West Africa] because they have built adequate systems. You first have to build systems so we will go and work with governments to build these systems — we don’t have the money to do any more than that, but we have technologies, expertise and knowledge that we can share. That’s what we bring to the table.

In 2014 alone, UNFPA provided family planning supplies targeting nearly 21 million women, men and adolescents in humanitarian settings. How does your approach to family planning differ in humanitarian settings and what changes is UNFPA putting in place in light of recent migration crises?

Our humanitarian response has grown [but] what makes it unique is that […] we need to be able to adapt to these [precarious] situations to be able to reach [the migrants], and then supply the services on a continuous basis. That’s what we’re doing as UNFPA.

In addition to providing education to women and girls about protecting themselves against sexual violence, providing safe spaces for women and girls around the camp, we ensure that we provide family planning services and more. We also talked to men who were coming to consecrate marriages for 13-year-old girls and educating them that they cannot do this. In addition, we do work with boys about gender-based violence to respect the bodies of women as equals.

How do we ensure that we can engage? It’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of passion. You cannot do it just by video message, you have to be there, sitting on the ground with them and talking to them. It’s not only going to be once, it’s going to be several times and they will come back and ask you things. But once they have your confidence they will do whatever needs to be done, because they then know that you have no agenda.

Rights-based family planning: Collaboration for acceleration

By Beth Schlachter, Yetnayet Asfaw


Ensuring that 120 million additional women and girls are able to access and use modern contraception, a goal outlined by the Family Planning 2020 global partnership, is about much more than a number.

Women and girls — each with a face, a name, a story and dreams — have the right to define their needs and make decisions about their own sexual and reproductive health, both within and beyond the clinic walls.

In fact, the ability to choose whether, when and how many children to have is essential not only to a woman’s health, but also to the health of her family and community. When women have access to quality family planning and health services, they are more likely to survive childbirth, have healthier children and go further in their education.

Yet expanding access to contraception has never been just about health — it means fundamentally changing the status of women and girls in society by respecting their bodies, minds, aspirations and lives. And this translates into women becoming agents of their own change and ensuring their rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.

Consider Dolena and her husband Mohammed Jakirul, a shy young couple from Dhaka, Bangladesh. Recently married at 17 and 20, respectively, they think it’s too early to have children. “We want to be financially stable and secure first,” Dolena says quietly. That’s why she and her husband opted for a three-year contraceptive implant, which will allow them the time they need, without worry of an unexpected pregnancy.

Steady progress

Dolena’s story illustrates how, no matter where they live, millions of women and girls, as well as men and boys, want the ability to determine for themselves if and when to start a family. But it is also a sharp reminder of how different her story could have been if it were just three years ago, when the government of Bangladesh did not even allow women access to implants if they hadn’t given birth to at least one child.

There is no doubt that we are seeing progress in expanding access, and in ensuring that access includes full, free and informed choice to a wide range of contraceptive options. Bangladesh is one of nearly 40 countries that through the FP2020 partnership has made a commitment to expand access to voluntary contraception for women and girls in the world’s poorest countries.

And, today, more women and girls are using modern contraceptives than ever before. This is an incredible accomplishment, but we have a lot more work to do — too many millions of women and girls are still out of reach, still waiting for services, respect, and a feeling of peace and security in their own lives.

Accelerate towards the future

We have both the opportunity and obligation to accelerate our progress by putting an individual’s rights at the center — and making sure they stay there. However, this must be a collective, concerted effort by governments, health care providers, communities, and clients.

Since the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, a broad array of partners have collaborated to develop frameworks to articulate what a rights-based approach entails, design tools and trainings to help create rights-based programs, and now to roll out these tools as a way of engaging diverse stakeholders, measuring their impact, and ultimately holding our governments and ourselves accountable.

Buoyed by the momentum out of last week’s International Conference of Family Planning, let’s renew our promise to coordinate across donors, partners, and implementers and make rights-based family planning a reality for the millions of women and girls who are relying on us to get this right.

Now is the time to strengthen sexual and reproductive health and rights — both as a means and as an end.

To help make rights a reality:

• Invest in data collection and use to track and measure the extent to which rights are incorporated into existing and new programs and to better understand who is not being reached.

• Strengthen country ownership and advocate for allocation of adequate funds to support rights-based family planning programs. It is the right thing to do, and it is the smart thing to do.

• Because we are committed to advancing the principles of rights and empowerment in family planning, we use a variety of tools offered by FP2020EngenderHealth, and summarized in this resource guide.

Reconciling God With Contraception

Correcting the misperception that family planning entails the sacrifice of faith will save countless lives around the world.

By Jose G. Rimon II

Early in my public health career, I learned an important lesson about faith and family planning.

I had led a Philippine delegation to Indonesia to learn about that country's family planning program and how it saved mothers' and infants' lives and, in the process, also curbed population growth. We met with and learned from Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, two of the largest Islamic organizations in the world. After we returned to the Philippines, one of my colleagues, an imam, invited me to speak at his Friday prayer. I shied away from addressing family planning – the topic that had brought us together in the first place.­­­­­­

I shouldn't have. After my talk, the imam proceeded to tell his congregants to have fewer children so they could stay handsome and their spouses could stay youthful longer. His message was so well received, he became fondly known as "Imam Pogi," local slang for handsome. As Imam Pogi knew, faith does not have to be at odds with family planning – and it shouldn't be if we want to improve global health, especially for women and children. Around the world,225 million women want to stop having children or manage their births but lack access to contraception. No matter the faith or orthodoxy one follows, research shows that family planning saves lives:

  • Fewer unplanned pregnancies means fewer abortions and better health for moms and babies.
  • Enabling women to space out children by about 3 years has been shown to improve health and reduce the number of women and children who die in childbirth.
  • Giving couples the tools to have fewer children can improve families' educational and economic chances and decrease the risk of women dying while pregnant or soon after childbirth.

Few would argue that these life-changing benefits should not be enjoyed by people of all faiths.

Yet even today, the perception exists in some quarters – and let's face it, sometimes becomes a tragic reality – that religion clashes with family planning. In a 2008 survey of several dozen organizations that provide faith-based health services in developing countries, religious opposition was perceived to be a greater obstacle to helping couples (both Muslim and Christian) plan their families than were lack of contraceptive supplies or fear of contraceptive methods. 

"Couples are expected to get as many children as God provides," a respondent for one organization said.

That perception has invited contentious debates over birth control in highly religious countries. But disagreement does not preclude progress. In the Philippines, after almost a decade and a half of opposition by the powerful Catholic Church, a landmark bill was passed in 2013 giving low-income women access to contraception provided through government resources. Polls showed that Filipinos strongly supported the bill's underlying philosophy – that the government should ensure access for all citizens, especially the poor.

This type of national breakthrough is important for two reasons. One, it shows that the more choices people have, the more likely they will be to use some form of modern contraception. Second, it helps to normalize contraception for families. Once a public health practice such as using modern contraception becomes a part of a society's social norms, it will sustain itself.

To help people reconcile their faith with family planning, we must show them that contraception is more in step with their religious beliefs than they may have thought. In Jordan, where the Johns Hopkins Center for Communications Programs, at which I worked before, advised the government on its family planning program, many people believed their religious leaders opposed birth control. That was a misperception disproven by a survey of religious leaders. It turned out that religious leaders were no different than the faithful, and more than 80 percent supported family planning.

We also can empower people to make family planning choices when ideology does not accommodate the realities of life. About two-thirds of American Catholics, for example, say it is not a sin to use modern contraceptives such as condoms, pills and intrauterine devices – the Catholic Church disagrees. But 98 percent of sexually active American Catholic women of reproductive age have used a method of contraception other than "natural" family planning, which is the only type of birth control officially promoted by the Catholic Church.

It is my hope that many more faith leaders will vocally support family planning and that many more people in communities of faith will talk openly about their family planning decisions. When that happens, contraceptive choice – with its many benefits – will become a practiced, accepted part of life for people of all faiths.

‘Third chamber’ sets back RH law

By Linda B. Bolido


REPRODUCTIVE health (RH) advocates thought they had won the war when Republic Act No. 10354 was passed. It now turns out they have merely won another battle, and the protracted war to empower women and ensure that they are able to exercise their reproductive health rights continues.


Over the holidays, a few legislators, sitting in what is called the bicameral conference committee (bicam), practically sabotaged the implementation of The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act (RPRHA) of 2012 by slashing P1 billion from the P1.157 billion provision for the procurement of “modern and natural family planning supplies” in the 2016 General Appropriations bill.


The P1 billion, RH campaigners said, would have been used mainly for the purchase of family planning supplies for poor women.


Spearheaded by Sen. Vicente Sotto III, one of the most vociferous opponents of the RH law, the budget reduction left RH campaigners stunned, unable to believe that a few—in this case, two, by their reckoning, including Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance—could practically undermine implementation of the law they had fought for for a long time.


Arbitrary, unjust

The Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) called the bicam’s action “arbitrary, unjust and callous.” It said the action “will thrust millions of women who want to plan their pregnancies into uncertainty and the likelihood of unplanned pregnancy” and could raise the number of abortion and maternal death. “It will also thrust millions of impoverished families into greater destitution,” they added.


Former Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, lead author of RPRHA, said in a press conference called by women’s groups and other RH advocates, that the “tragic slash from an already small appropriation for family planning supplies violates RPRHA as a whole.”


Universal access

Lagman said Section 2 of the law, which the Supreme Court already declared constitutional, mandated “the state to guarantee universal access to legitimate and quality reproductive health-care services, devices and supplies with priority to marginalized acceptors.”


Section 9 of the RPRHA, provided for the “inclusion in the Philippine National Drug Formulary of nonabortifacient, legal and medically safe hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectables and other family planning products and supplies,” Lagman said.


By causing the budget to be reduced, Sotto, who failed to prevent the passage of RPRHA, is blocking the successful implementation of the law, according to Lagman.

Sen. Pia Cayetano said what happened at the bicam should concern all legislators.


Cayetano, one of the legislators who pushed for the approval of RPRHA, said the issue was not only about family planning but also about procedure, ethics and how Congress did its work. She said it was unethical that the “tragic slash” was made without informing the legislators concerned.


During the bicam, she said, the information relayed to the senators on the floor was very different from the final outcome of the General Appropriations Act signed by President Aquino.



“I feel we were duped,” she said. The senators could not vote responsibly without accurate and adequate information. “The bicameral report is supposed to report the significant changes. And P1 billion out of family planning is significant.”


Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, lead convenor of Purple Ribbon for RH coalition, said that unmet needs for modern contraceptive methods had kept women from fully exercising their reproductive health rights.


No access

She said the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey estimated that of the 25 million Filipino women of reproductive age, 5.684 million who were 15 to 49 years old, had no access to modern family planning services and supplies.


The reduction in the budget for the purchase of supplies would worsen the problems of unwanted pregnancies, high maternal death rates and abortion, among others, said Cabral, chair of the national implementation team on the RPRH law.


Population growth

She said the population growth rate that had fallen to 1.6-1.7 percent could go up again to 1.9 to 2 percent. The current Philippine population is estimated to be a little over 100 million. Cabral said a growth rate of 1.9 percent would mean that in one year, some 1.9 million people would be added to the country’s population. A population growth rate of 2 percent would add 2 million to the Philippine population in one year.


The “tragic slash” apparently happened because the RH champions were not savvy enough to realize that the battle in the legislature did not stop when a law was passed.

Lagman called attention to the power wielded by the bicam, a body composed of representatives from the Senate and House of Representatives tasked with reconciling and making more acceptable proposed legislation to both chambers.


As defined, the committee is “a temporary panel composed of House and Senate conferees which is formed for the purpose of reconciling differences in legislation that has passed both chambers.


“Conference committees are usually convened to resolve bicameral differences on major and controversial legislation. (It) settles any differences in the two bills, then sends the final bill to both houses.”



But the committee apparently does more than reconciling differences. Lagman said “it is effectively the third chamber” of the legislative body and there was always horse-trading involved and one-on-one negotiations between members, particularly chairs of committees.


Benjamin Diokno, former budget secretary and a professor at the University of the Philippines School of Economics, wrote in his column for another paper in 2013 that the “powerful” bicam had become more secretive and opaque” over time.


His description of what happened in committee meetings reflected what Lagman said about horse-trading and one-on-one negotiations. “During most bicameral committee meetings, decision-making was delegated to the heads of the House and Senate contingents. While this ‘four-eyes only’ arrangement facilitates decision-making, it shows lack of transparency in the second-to-the-last step in the authorization phase of the budget process …. Often, the bicam has gone beyond reconciling differences between the House and Senate versions of bills,” Diokno said, a statement that RH campaigners would agree with wholeheartedly.


No minutes

Diokno added that the bicameral conference committee kept no minutes of proceedings. “Only the House appropriations committee chair, the Senate finance committee chair and members of the bicameral committee can recall, from memory, who initiated a particular change in the budget and how the committee addressed it,” he said.


When the bicam submitted its “reconciled” version, Diokno said, “At this stage of the budget authorization phase, no individual amendments to the report may be entertained. The legislator either votes for or against the report.” He added that he did not know of any instance when the committee report was rejected by the two chambers.


Former Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the bicam process was “most important” so it was crucial for RH advocates to have had somebody monitoring the work of the committee.


Rested on laurels

Lagman lamented that the RH coalition had failed to monitor the congressional process. “We rested on our laurels. RH advocates laid down their arms,” he said.

Former Sen. Leticia Ramos-Shahani said “we (RH campaigners) let our guard down.” She said the timing of the release of the bicam report was “suspicious,” as it was right after the holidays, and described the budget slash “an act of treachery.”


She urged the RH campaigners “to pay attention when the [proposed] General Appropriations Act is being debated. You have to understand the process … You have to fight until the last battle. Be interested in the process. Be patient. Don’t be too emotional. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”

Lagman said that by causing the reduction in the budget for the purchase of family planning supplies, Sotto was blocking the successful implementation of RPRHA.“Central to the implementation of the law is the provision of contraceptives, especially to the marginalized,” he said. There could be no law if supplies were not provided.


He said the 2016 budget for the purchase of supplies was even lower than in previous years when there was no RPRHA.

RH advocates did not find Legarda’s and Sotto’s explanation for the cut reasonable. Legarda reportedly said the Department of Health (DOH) was slow in using its 2015 budget. But the RH campaigners said the statement was based on the half-year, January-June, performance. By December, the DOH had almost used up its budget for the year for the purchase of contraceptives.


Sotto justification

Moreover, Cabral pointed out, “In general, all unexpended or unobligated portions of the budget of a department are reverted to the National Treasury (although) there are certain exceptions. For example, the President can approve a realignment of the unexpended/unobligated funds.”


Sotto justified his action by saying the Supreme Court had issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against contraceptives. But the RHAN said the TRO covered only injectable implants and these were not included in DOH’s budget request. “The TRO does not prevent the purchase of other family planning commodities,” it said.

Lagman said, by slashing the budget, the bicam “deprived women of their right to self-determination.”


Disservice to poor

Former President Fidel V. Ramos said, “The huge budget cut is a disservice to the poor,” adding that the people deserved an explanation from the bicam for the action.

“If indeed no allocation was provided for family planning services, the government will be in violation of the reproductive health rights of Filipinos under the RPRH law, which clearly indicates that the government must provide free family planning services to those who want it,” said Ramos, an eminent person of the Forum for Family Planning and Development Inc.


Wield voting power

Cabral said women and their families should stand up for their rights and stop being victims. They should use their votes as important weapons to get back at those “who thwart what is the law of the land.”


She urged them not to vote for those who “subvert your reproductive health rights.” She expressed the hope that women would finally flex their political muscle and show candidates there was true women power.


Shahani added that women should vote for those who supported the RH law.


Reform bicam

As for the bicam, Diokno, in what seemed to be a foreshadowing of the current controversy, said it “should be made transparent and accountable for its decisions. Its rules and procedures should be reformed, made open in order to limit its clout, enhance its fiscal accountability and improve the overall integrity of the budget process.”

He said there should be minutes of the proceedings of the committee and they should be printed and circulated to members of both houses of Congress before a vote was called on the bicam report.


The mandate of the bicam to reconcile differences in House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill should be limited, Diokno said. “During the period of reconciliation, no new budgetary item (program, project and activity) and provision may be introduced. At the same time, should the Senate concur with the House version in its entirety, there should be no need for a bicameral conference committee.”


He also suggested that bicam deliberations be open to the public.

Read more: 


Group orienting night high school students on reproductive health

By Jean Marvette A. Demecillo


CEBU, Philippines - To increase awareness on reproductive health among the youth, representatives of a Manila-based organization are in Cebu City conducting forums for night high school students.

Yesterday, The Forum for Family Planning Development Inc. was attended by 1,000 students of Abellana National School. The first to undergo the forum were the students from Zapatera Night High School.

Chi Laigo Vallido, the organization’s advocacy specialist, said the project targets night high school students since majority of them come from the poorest family in the city.

“Night students have also lesser access to programs that are often administered during regular school hours such as special fora on reproductive health,” she said.

Another aim, she said, is to increase awareness among the night high school students, being a vulnerable group, on the health benefits of the Reproductive Health Law.

Discussions include proper hygiene of women, correcting myths and misconceptions about giving birth, sexual maturation, sexual decision, promotion for the equity for poor families, and proper birth spacing, among others.

“There is really a need to address the teen pregnancy problem in the country since it has the highest in the Southeast Asian Region with more than 20 teen mothers giving birth every hour,” said Vallido.

She said the project will also properly educate the youth on the reproductive health services intended for them.

 “Madaming cases ng HIV ang pabata nang pabata. We want to really create awareness and to impart knowledge para makatulong sa mga decision-making na tama,” she said.

Vallido said they chose Cebu City since it is among the urbanized cities in the country with a high population.

The organization is eyeing to conduct forum in the different schools in Cebu City, where there are enrolled night high school students, until July this year. Currently, there are 20,000 night high school students in Cebu City.

Vallido said the organization has coordinated with the Cebu City Council for the possibility of its program to be adopted by the city government.

Prior to their program, Vallido said, she was able to talk to some night high school students in the city who disclosed several issues that need to be addressed such as street harassment, conducive learning environment, and poverty, among others.

Councilor Alvin Dizon, who was present at yesterday’s forum, said the activity helps in the values transformation of the youth. He chairs the council’s committee on youth and committee on education.

“Given the high teen pregnancy rate and HIV cases among the youth, there is really the need to involve public schools in adolescent reproductive health education,” he said.

Dizon further said he will support the group’s recommendation to establish more schools in the city to accommodate night high school students.

He told the students that he will continue to pass measures that will promote the rights of the young people.  (FREEMAN)

We're Falling Behind on Family Planning: 5 Ways To Get Us Back On Track

By Melinda Gates


Four years ago, I stood with an international alliance of family planning advocates to set an ambitious goal for the world. We pledged that by 2020, 120 million more women and girls would have access to the family planning services they want and need to live their healthiest, best lives.

The good news is that, thanks to our collective efforts, over the last four years, tens of millions of unintended pregnancies have been avoided.

The bad news is that if we continue at current rates, we will fall short of our goal, breaking our promise to millions of women.

The consequences of failure are huge  --  for women, for their children, for everyone. An unplanned pregnancy often means that girls are forced to drop out of school and that women can no longer work outside the home, both of which contribute to keeping families and communities trapped in cycles of poverty. Unplanned pregnancies also carry significant health risks to both women and their children.

These 120 million women and girls are counting on us to keep our promise. We need to get back on track now.

Here are five reasons why I am optimistic that 2016 will be the turning point towards a future full of promise for millions of women and girls.

1. Data

There is a data revolution going on in family planning that is helping to focus support where it's needed. It all comes from an innovative smartphone-based system called Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 (PMA2020). The data mean governments are better informed than ever before and better able to respond more quickly to what women need and want.

2. Tablets

These devices have been a game-changer in Indonesia, where a large Islamic women's organization helps women and girls understand more about family planning using interactive tablets to share advice and information in an easy, modern way. In fact, these tablets are proving so effective that the government of Indonesia has committed to purchase 22,000 more.

3. Injectables

More precisely, an all-in-one injectable contraceptive that is increasing women's access to safe and effective family planning. It's small, discreet, easy to use, and requires minimal training to administer, making it especially suitable for community health workers in rural areas. And it lasts three months, meaning fewer trips to the clinic (which is an important consideration in places where the nearest clinic is many miles away).

This contraceptive is already proving particularly successful in reaching new users and women under 25. One day, women may even be able to administer it themselves at home  --  giving them even more independence, flexibility, and control over their lives.

4. Empowering Youth

With the largest generation of young people in history about to enter their reproductive years, an essential part of our work will be reaching young people. That's why we're working with the Children's Investment Fund Foundation to support a unique initiative that puts adolescents and young women in the driver's seat to better understand what motivates or discourages them from using contraceptives. Working side by side with young people, we'll test and identify what works and what doesn't, and scale up promising models.

5. Radio

There are a whole lot of misconceptions out there about, well, conception! These misconceptions about pregnancy  --  and how to prevent it  --  are especially common among women living in urban slums. In response, health workers in these areas are using myth-busting discussions on local radio phone-in shows to address suggestions that contraceptives might make women infertile or harm their children.

Together with other interventions, this is making a big difference in urban areas, which is especially important since almost four billion people  --  more than half of the world's population  --  now live in cities.


These are just a few of the new approaches that will empower more women and girls to take charge of their futures than ever before. But while progress is possible, it is not inevitable. If we're going to keep the promise we made in 2012, it's time to step up and get to work.

4 Central Mindanao LGUs get child-friendly awards


KIDAPAWAN CITY—The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has conferred the child-friendly seal to four local government units (LGUs) in Central Mindanao for programs geared to advancing the welfare of children.

Leocadio Trovela, acting director of the DILG national barangay operations office, said the cities of Cotabato and General Santos and the provinces of South Cotabato and North Cotabato got the rating of 100 percent each in the November 2015 Child-Friendly Local Governance Audit (CFLGA) and were conferred the seal by the Council for the Welfare of Children.

Children's welfare

Reynaldo Bungubung, DILG Central Mindanao director under the CFLGA, said all cities and municipalities were assessed “to gauge their level of performance in implementing child-friendly programs and establishing measures that promote children’s welfare.”

“The conferment of the seal of child-friendly local governance to deserving LGUs proves that they have delivered services that promote the welfare of children, which can be seen in the child-sensitive policies or actions made by them,” Bungubung said.

In the case of North Cotabato, Ali Abdullah, the provincial local government operations officer, said the administration of Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza instituted child-friendly programs under the provincial Child and Youth Welfare Development Code.

He said other benchmarks used include scholarship programs for the youth, leadership and livelihood programs for in-school and out-of-school youth and feeding program for daycare centers.

Abdullah also cited the Summer Kids Peace Kids Camp (SKPKC) initiative of the provincial government, which is now in its sixth year.


Leadership skills, values

SKPKC aims to engage children—particularly fifth graders in public schools—in activities that promote peace. At the SKPKC, children were taught leadership skills and values that would help them become more useful or productive individuals and instill in them the importance of peace among Christians, Moro and indigenous peoples, he said.

Mendoza said the conferment of the seal of child-friendly local governance to North Cotabato proved that the province has gone a long way in promoting the security and protection of children.

She said the provincial government would continue to uphold the welfare of the children and further institute changes or reforms that would uplift the living conditions of children of poor families. Williamor Magbanua, Inquirer Mindanao






Zika virus can be sexually transmitted; spreads to US, Mexico, Australia

Washington – The Zika virus has spread to the United States, Mexico, and Australia with scientists warning that the mosquito behind the Zika virus seems to operate like a heat-driven missile of disease and the World Health Organization (WHO) urging countries to strengthen their surveillance and take preventive measures against the virus.

“The hotter it gets, the better [for] the mosquito that carries Zika virus is at transmitting its buffet of dangerous illnesses. As the temperature rises, nearly everything about the biology of the Aedes aegypti mosquito – the one that carries Zika, dengue fever and other diseases – speeds up when it comes to spreading disease,”  said entomologist Bill Reisen of the University of California Davis.

A person in Texas has been infected with the Zika virus after having sex with an ill person who had returned from South America, local health officials said Tuesday. It’s the first case of the virus being transmitted in the US during the current outbreak of Zika, which has been linked to birth defects in the Americas.

At least 37 cases of the Zika virus infections were registered in Mexico, the head of the epidemiology service of the country’s Health Secretary, Cuitlahuac Ruiz Matus, confirmed on Tuesday. Thirty-four people were infected with the virus in Mexico, while three got the virus abroad.

Two cases of Zika virus infection have been detected in New South Wales, Australia. Sky News quoted Dr. Vicky Sheppeard, Director, Communicable Diseases, at NSW Health, as saying that Zika virus infection was confirmed on January 29 in two NSW residents who had recently travelled in the Caribbean.

The World Health Organization on Monday declared a global emergency over the rapidly spreading Zika virus, saying it is an “extraordinary event’’ that poses a threat to the rest of the world. The declaration was made after an emergency meeting of independent experts called in response to a spike in babies born with brain defects and abnormally small heads in Brazil since the virus was first found there last year.

The hotspots for this Zika outbreak also have been temperature and drought hotspots recently. Recife, Brazil, the largest city in the Zika-struck region, saw its hottest September-October-November on record, about 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal, according to NASA data. The state of Pernambuco had its hottest and driest year since 1998, according to the state weather agency. And globally, last year was the hottest on record.

Scientists have studied Zika far less than other mosquito-borne diseases, so for guidance they often look at dengue fever or chikungunya, which are transmitted by the same species of mosquito. Dengue infects as many as 400 million people a year, with a quarter of them sick enough to be hospitalized.


“It’s very rare but this is not new, we always looked at the point that this could be transmitted sexually,’’ said Zachary Thompson, director of the Dallas County Health and Human Services, told WFAA-TV in Dallas.

Health officials did not release any details about the Texas patient, citing privacy issues. In a tweet, Dallas health officials said the first person infected had been to Venezuela, but did not detail when and where that person or the second person was diagnosed. The second person did not travel.

While Thompson told the television station that the case of sexual transmission is “a game-changer,’’ he added that he didn’t want people in Dallas County to overreact. Health officials and Thompson noted that sexual partners can protect themselves by using condoms to prevent spreading sexually transmitted infections.


Zika virus infection was confirmed on January 29 in two New South Wales residents who had recently travelled in the Caribbean.

“It is very unlikely that Zika virus established local transmission in NSW as the mosquitoes that spread the infection are not established here, although they are found in some parts of north Queensland,” Sheppeard said.

The health department said the residents had mild cases of the virus and have since recovered.


The Mexican state of Quintana Roo and Guerrero’s Acapulco city had declared an epidemiological emergency after two cases of infection with the Zika virus have been reportedly confirmed in the neighboring Yucatan state.

The recent Zika outbreak originated in Brazil and spread across Latin America. Currently, Zika virus infection cases have been registered in 27 states across the globe, including in both Americas, the South Pacific and some European countries.


WHO on Tuesday urged Southeast Asian countries and India to strengthen surveillance and take preventive measures against Zika virus, especially as the mosquito responsible for its spread is found in many areas of the region.

WHO also urged countries in the region to build capacity of their laboratories to detect the virus and strengthen surveillance for cases of fever and rash, neurological syndromes and birth defects while recommending intensifying vector control program measures.

“Countries in the region should strengthen surveillance and take preventive measures against the Zika virus which is strongly suspected to have a causal relation with clusters of microcephaly and other neurological abnormalities.

“Countries should build capacity of their laboratories to detect the virus and strengthen surveillance for cases of fever and rash, neurological syndromes and birth defects.

Countries should intensify their vector control program and prepare health services for managing Zika virus,” said WHO Southeast Asia Regional Director Poonam Khetrapal Singh.

The Center today also issued detailed guidelines, including a travel advisory for pregnant women urging them to either defer or cancel their travel to the areas affected with the virus.

Singh said Zika virus is of “concern” in the WHO Southeast Asia region as the Aedes aegyptii mosquito which is responsible for its spread is found in many areas and there is “no evidence of immunity” to the virus in many populations of the area.


-AP/AFP/Dow Jones/PNA

Zika: A Perfect Storm of Climate Change, Disease, and SRHR



The Zika virus is now “spreading explosively,” announced the World Health Organization in a statement released last week[i] and “the level of alarm is extremely high.” The most recent spate of Zika virus infections was diagnosed in April 2015 in northeastern Brazil (the previous large outbreaks were in 2007 and 2013-2014 in the Pacific islands) and a possible result[ii] of the virus presented itself in a most tangible form in October 2015 when cases of microcephaly[iii]—smallness of the head, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development—began to appear among newborn infants.

Since its detection in Brazil, the virus has spread to 23 countries and regions in the Americas, and warnings are being issued to consider Zika a public health emergency. The spread of the virus and the responses to curbing it present a perfect storm of climate change, disease, and their intersections with and impact on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Climate Change Accelerating Spread of Disease

A 2009 briefing paper by Oxfam posited “the effects of climate change on health will reach wider and faster across the world than any other fall-out from climate change.”[iv] The paper discussed the increase in water-borne, insect-borne, vector-borne diseases due to increases in temperature and rain, and the inability of health and municipal services to be able to plan and manage these changes. In Asia-Pacific, we see the year-on-year rapid increase in dengue, in particular in the Philippines and Indonesia.[v]

Dengue, Malaria, and now Zika are all examples of how mosquito-borne diseases are interlinked with effects of climate change such as rising temperatures and shifts in precipitation.[vi] Scientists say that long-term climate change will make it increasingly difficult to protect human beings from such diseases and the rapid spread of Zika over a few months is quite telling of this.

Zika and Women’s SRHR

Responses to Zika by Latin American governments currently have a major focus on the increase of microcephaly in infants, nearly 4,000 cases detected from October to date.[vii] The effects of microcephaly span a wide spectrum of outcomes, ranging from children who are not affected at all apart from the superficial issue of smaller head size to those who cannot walk or talk and need constant care and special needs therapy[viii]. Therefore an increase in children with microcephaly could place additional stress on families, communities, health services, and later on also on educational services. Given that the virus manifests itself in indiscernible ways on adults, women may not know they have contracted the virus, and if pregnant, until they deliver. There is also evidence emerging that on rare occasions, Zika could be sexually transmitted.[ix].

The responses point to one thing, especially in a region that has limited access to contraceptives, including condoms, and highly restrictive laws on abortion due to socio-religious norms. An undue burden is being placed on women, especially those from marginalised populations, who live in countries that face climate change, have conservative laws and policies (influenced by religion, and not recognising sexual and reproductive rights), and give little or no access to essential sexual and reproductive health services.

For an example, the government of El Salvador has advised women not to get pregnant until 2018, advice that has since been meted out by government officials in Colombia and Ecuador. This advice, challenged by women’s organisations[x]and not endorsed by organisations such as the WHO, fails to recognise the reality of the region where access to contraception is limited, abortion is highly criminalised, and pregnancies often occur as a result of sexual violence. A 2014 study by the Guttmacher Institute[xi] found that 56% of pregnancies in Latin America and the Caribbean are unintended—the highest proportion in the world—showing that women already have little control over their bodies and pregnancies.

While the governments in Latin America are saying that this advice is a secondary strategy to combat the virus, it remains an unprecedented sweeping request. Apart from being impossible to achieve, it is also feared that this approach would lead to women being forced to have unsafe abortions, resulting in death or severe complications, as well as legal consequences. This is particularly concerning in countries like El Salvador, where women may be jailed even for miscarriage of pregnancy.[xii]

Way Forward

A comprehensive approach that is rights-based is essential to combat diseases such as these. Such an approach would include:

  • Access to a full range of contraception including dual-protection methods that prevent pregnancy and prevent the transmission of diseases.
  • Access to information that would enable individuals and couples to make informed decisions about their bodies and their lives.
  • Access to comprehensive maternal health services: antenatal scans to enable early detection, access to a choice of safe abortion services, safe delivery services and neo-natal care.
  • Policy, programme, and paradigm changes that take into account the intersections between climate change and SRHR[xiii].

Civil society organisations across the world are calling on governments to reform their policies on contraception and abortion, and we stand in solidarity with them.

Teen pregnancy down in Asia-Pacific, except PH – report

By Fritzie Rodriguez


There's been little change in the number of teenage pregnancies in the Philippines, says a UN agency

MANILA, Philippines – Young, sexually active, and clueless.

That is how some unwanted pregnancies start out in the Philippines and elsewhere.

The problem traces its roots to the lack of access to appropriate sexual and reproductive health information and services, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said.

"Adolescent fertility rates have declined in the last two decades in all countries with available data, with the exception of the Philippines where there has been little change," the UNFPA reported in February.

At present, there are nearly one billion young people aged between 10 and 24 living in the Asia-Pacific region, accounting for more than a quarter of its population.

A "significant proportion" are sexually active.

"While for many the onset of sexual activity is associated with marriage, an increasing number are initiating sex before marriage," the report said

Around one-third of adolescent pregnancies were conceived prior to marriage, an unpublished analysis of the 2013 Philippine Demographic and Health Survey reported.

The burden carried by such adolescents is greater as they have insufficient knowledge and life-skills regarding safe and consensual relationships, the UNFPA said. (READ: Young, pregnant, and poor)

They also face barriers to accessing services and commodities needed to avoid unsafe sex and its consequences. (READ: Is learning safe sex unsafe?)

The UNFPA stressed that poor sexual and reproductive health not only affects the youth physically but also socioeconomically.

"These negative consequences extend to young people’s families and future generations, and can perpetuate a cycle of poor health and disadvantage," the UNFPA said.

While improvements in the Philippines have been slow, South Asian countries have seen much progress. Their adolescent fertility has fallen by nearly 40%, partly because of a reduction in child marriage.

"Fertility rates are higher in settings where early marriage is prevalent and among rural girls compared with those living in urban areas," the UNFPA observed. "Adolescent pregnancy is also associated with less education attainment and lower socioeconomic status."

Forced, violent sex

Several adolescent girls and young women reported coerced sex.

In fact, in the Philippines, 15% of adolescent girls who had sex before the age of 15 reported that their first encounter was forced. The rate is only 5% for those who had sex over the age of 15.

Meanwhile, around half experienced sexual violence. "Rates of violence are also high among young female sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), and young transgender people," the UNFPA said.

Around 50% of Filipino MSMs said their first sexual encounter with a man was forced.

As a result, this age group is at risk of the following:

  • Early and unintended pregnancy
  • Unsafe abortion
  • Sexually transmitted disease (STD)
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

Such risks are especially high among young women who sell sex. They also have high rates of multiple partners and sexual violence.

Adolescent female sex workers aged 14 to 17 were more than 3 times "less likely to negotiate condom use with their clients than adult sex workers."


There are various factors influencing risky sexual behaviors. One of them is alcohol, with 9% to 12% in the Philippines reporting binge drinking.

Lack of parental support or living away from one's family has also been associated with early initiation of sex.

But some influences can be good. A study in the Philippines showed a link between delayed sexual initiation and having a close relationship with parents.

Some influences, meanwhile, can be both harmful and good, the UNFPA suggested. "While religious taboos may be a barrier limiting open discussion of sexual health and access to services, a family’s religious or spiritual beliefs can also be protective against risky sexual behaviors."

Other factors that could pressure young people into sex are friends, the media, and gender norms.

Condom or no condom?

In the Philippines, more than half of adolescent girls rely on short-acting methods like pills and condoms.

Meanwhile, the use of more effective methods like intrauterine devices (IUD) and implants is very low.

Not everyone uses condoms either. The UNFPA found that young people are "much less likely" to use condoms with romantic partners, thinking that condoms imply promiscuity. (READ: Are you afraid of condoms?)

This mindset is dangerous as it could lead to unwanted pregnancies and STDs.

In fact, self-reported STD among young Filipino men is at least 3 times higher than among older men.

To improve such conditions, the UNFPA suggested the following:

  • Support research on sexual and reproductive health.
  • Strengthen laws granting the youth access to sexual and reproductive health information, commodities, and services.
  • Improve sexuality education.
  • Increase youth participation in policy-making and programming

‘In FP, men are like Voldemort’

By Rina Jimenez-David


“IN FAMILY Planning, men are like Voldemort in ‘Harry Potter,’ mostly unmentioned. Going forward, instead of saying ‘women, children and adolescents,’ it would be more efficient to simply say ‘not men.’”

That’s the observation of Jonathan Stack, who took part in the just-concluded International Conference on Family Planning held in Bali, as an organizer of activities marking World Vasectomy Day. Stack, a filmmaker newly converted to the world of family planning and reproductive health and rights, may have been speaking tongue-in-cheek. But he had a point.

“Male involvement” has long been mentioned as a sought-after goal, a “holy grail” of family planning, where policymakers and planners bemoan the lack or minimal participation of men and boys in an issue where they are, at the very least, half-involved.

Women and girls, after all, do not get pregnant by themselves. And yet it seems that much of the burden is expected to be borne by them, and while men can (and often do) walk away from a single sexual encounter with little care for results, their female partners must face more far-reaching consequences. For one, there is a possible infection (something her partner could be afflicted with, too), pregnancy (if the sex occurs during a fertile period), nine months of bearing the “fruit of conception,” the ordeal of birthing and its many side effects, and, sad to note, much of the responsibility of rearing and nurturing the child.

And yet, says Emily Jane Sullivan (presenting a study on the “motivations and barriers” that men in low- and middle-income countries face in deciding whether or not to undergo a vasectomy), men do want to take more responsibility in planning and managing their families. But they face numerous barriers ranging from lack of information to myths and misconceptions surrounding vasectomy, religious beliefs and—believe it or not—opposition from their wives and partners.

* * *

“FEMALE sterilization is one of the most common methods of family planning around the world,” states Sullivan, and yet “vasectomy rates for men rarely reach over one percent” of any given population.

In fact, there are only six countries that report vasectomy as the most common method of family planning, with Canada topping the list. (Another reason for crushing on “Apec hottie” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, all of us women at the seminar agreed.)

Indeed, ever since 1980 when “non-scalpel vasectomy” (NSV) was successfully tested and developed in China, vasectomy has become an “almost painless” procedure (for which the only medical intervention necessary, say doctors who have performed NSV, is a Band-aid over the puncture site). Indeed, say health authorities, NSV is “20 times safer” for a man than ligation is for a woman. It is also cheaper, including less “down time” for the patient (who can walk away on his own after an hour or so), while providing the same number of “couple years protection” as ligation would. Although it is possible to “reverse” both vasectomy and ligation, the operation necessary for it would be far more complicated, expensive and risky; so individuals and couples are counseled to think long and carefully before undergoing these “permanent” methods.

* * *

BUT “male involvement” in family planning is not confined to simply undergoing a vasectomy (or using a condom).

In a workshop called “It Takes Two,” on couple decision-making and family planning acceptability, speakers noted how couples, even those already affianced or in the early months (or years) of marriage, rarely talked about their family plans or preferences.

Usually, said Foglabenchi Lily Haritu, who hails from Cameroon but was presenting a study on couples from Madhya Pradesh in India, “spousal communication is rare and triggered by the crisis of an unplanned pregnancy.” Only then, her subjects told her, would husband and wife begin discussing their family planning preferences and options. The discussion, she added, is usually initiated by the man, for if a woman would open up the topic, “that is considered a perversion,” or else trigger suspicions of infidelity.

And in case of a conflict or clash of opinions, they found that the standoff would most commonly “be resolved by the wife submitting to the (decision of the) husband.”

Jagranath Behera, presenting a study on “encouraging young married women to improve intra-spousal communication” in rural India, said they found that when there was “communication between spouses, it was more likely that they would be using contraception.”

* * *

CLEARLY, both field workers and clinicians should work harder to “rope in” the men into the discussion and practice of family planning.

And yet, in the desire to get more men involved, health authorities may end up marginalizing even more already marginalized and silenced women.

A friend reports being “scandalized” by a report from another workshop in which it was disclosed that women who come to a health center accompanied by their husbands or partners receive greater priority from the center personnel and are indeed pushed to the head of the line. “But what of the women whose husbands could not or would not accompany them?” she asked. “Should they be penalized for having uncooperative husbands or partners?” Indeed, shouldn’t they be accorded even higher priority given the barriers they had to hurdle before going to the health center?

There is also the possibility that some women may be “reading” their husbands wrong, thinking or assuming that the men are against family planning—when in truth they believe in it and would encourage their wives to practice it or, who knows, may even be willing to undergo a vasectomy if told the full, unvarnished facts.

LOOK: Pink jeepneys for women, seniors, PWDs

View image on Twitter  View image on Twitter

MANILA - The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) on Saturday unveiled "pink jeepneys" that will provide transport for women, children, senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the Guadalupe-Pateros area.


The pink jeepneys, initiated by the Guadalupe-Pateros Jeepney and Operators' Association, will provide public transport service for women, children, senior citizens and PWDs during rush hours -- from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.


Fourteen jeepney units plying the Guadalupe-Pateros route were painted in pink for the project. The jeepneys' drivers also have pink uniform.


"Yung programa natin ay para mabigyan natin ng prayoridad yung mga sektor na sa tingin natin ay mas kailangan nila ng respeto, mas kailangan nila ng kalinga," said LTFRB board member Ariel Inton. -- Report from Dennis Datu, dzMM


Self-control urged for lovers

By Sheila Crisostomo


  • Self-control urged for lovers

                                                                           Philippine Star - Self-control urged for lovers


The Department of Health (DOH) has appealed to lovers to observe safe sex by using contraceptives but urged teenagers to abstain.

“(Couples) have to keep themselves safe. Making decisions like this could lead to lifetime complications like unwanted pregnancies. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is also now on the rise,” said acting Health Secretary Janette Garin in a chance interview.

“For teen-agers… don’t go beyond what you can handle,” said Garin, who pushed for the passage of the Reproductive Health Law when she was still congresswoman of the first district of Iloilo.

Garin added that abstinence is “really the most ideal” practice but it is a barely heeded advice.

“Unfortunately, many still get carried away. If they have a condom, then use condoms, especially those who are not married. You could protect yourself from (sexually transmitted) diseases,” she said.

For this year’s Valentine’s Day, however, the DOH will not be distributing condoms.

Under the term of former health secretary Esperanza Cabral, the agency distributed condoms at the Dangwa Flower Market in Manila during Valentine’s Day in 2010. This brought strong criticisms from the Catholic hierarchy.

Condom distribution is still part of a regular program of the DOH, noted Garin, but they are targeting poor couples as recipients.

Garin suggested that couples organize group dates or exercise groups so they could avoid being intimate with their partners. She also urged motel operators to provide condoms to their clients.

PCG ready for V-day

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) would be stepping up their vigilance beginning Friday to Sunday, as dinner cruises and dates aboard yachts are expected in celebration of Valentine’s Day.

The PCG is expecting people to avail of dinner cruises along Manila Bay, while yachts, docked at the Manila Yacht Club, are expected to sail along the bay area beginning Friday, Feb. 13, until Sunday, Feb. 15.

PCG Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) sub-station commander Chief Petty Officer Edgar Tantiado yesterday said that since some Valentine’s Day activities would be happening at sea, coast guard officers would be patrolling the area and would be ready to respond in cases of emergency.

“We have on standby three aluminum boats, we would also be listening on our radio for any updates” and the Vessel Traffic Monitoring System (VTMS) would be tracking the ships’ locations, Tantiado said.

He noted that passengers would have only about an hour and 15 minutes aboard cruise ships since this is normally how long the tour would take to get around the bay area. –With Evelyn Macairan


Govt expands training, earning program for youth

More youth can now earn while undergoing on-the-job training that could provide them the necessary skills for immediate employment.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz announced that the government is expanding its “Jobstart Philippines” program to reduce youth unemployment.

Baldoz said that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is allocating more than 3,000 vacancies to the program or double the slots in the initial implementation.

DOLE expanded the program to six other areas in the National Capital Region, Cebu, Davao and Palawan to benefit more unemployed youth.

DOLE pilot-tested the program in four areas last year with the aim of creating opportunities for people 18 to 24 years old to improve their technical skills.

Under the program, qualified beneficiaries are provided with knowledge in conducting job searches, access to career guidance and employment coaching, access to relevant labor market information and Public Employment Services Office infrastructure, and referral to potential employers.

“In JobStart, young people develop holistic employability through multi-faceted training such as in life skills, an eight-day immersion that develops attitudes toward work and workplace environment, job hunting skills and networking, personal and interpersonal skills, and health and financial management,”  Baldoz said.

Beneficiaries also undergo technical training of up to three months, up to six months of on-the-job training, a stipend during the technical training, and an allowance of at least 75 percent of the minimum wage during on-the-job training.

Based on DOLE data, the initial implementation of the program benefitted close to 2,000 unemployed youth from General Trias, Cavite, Taguig, San Fernando and Quezon City.

The JobStart program involves employers as partners who will have the opportunity to hire JobStart beneficiaries as interns with life skills and with employer-determined vocational training paid under the program.

“The advantage for employers is that they will enjoy a reduced cost of internship, as they will pay the interns only 75 percent of the minimum wage,” Baldoz said.— Mayen Jaymalin

 Press Release

Commission on Population

On the Occasion of the Launch of Rafael M. Salas Population and Development Award (RMSPDA) 2014

“A population policy is a long-range strategic weapon; its effects are felt not immediately but a generation hence. To be effective, it must be launched now.”

The Commission on Population (POPCOM) officially launches the 2014 Rafael M. Salas Population and Development Award (RMSPDA) on February 18, 2015. POPCOM, as the leading strategic partner, policy and program advocates for the Philippine Population Program, established the RMSPDA in 1989. The award is designed to perpetuate the legacy of Rafael M. Salas by honoring local government units, local chief executives and institutions or individuals for their outstanding contributions in the field of population and development. It also aims to heighten support and participation among government, non-government officials, individuals, or institutions in the implementation of the population management program.

Salas 'would have been disgusted by the noise with no substance....He would have rushed to the politicians and [the] religious to tell them that abortions are ongoing as they speak and grandstand, yet they don’t do anything' 

Updated 2:25 PM, Sep 12, 2012
by: Diana G. Mendoza

Rafael M. Salas, first director of the United Nations Population Fund. Photo from UNPFA.Rafael M. Salas, first director of the United Nations Population Fund. Photo from UNPFA.

MANILA, Philippines - The world’s first-ever population program was created by a Filipino.

While the debate over the Reproductive Health (RH) bill has taken on different slants, narrowed down to sex, contraception, and abortion, many Filipinos today are unaware that a fellow Filipino started it all in the international arena.

PHL-based social entrepreneurs join global group of changemakers


Pushing for breastfeeding. Providing safe water in vulnerable communities. Empowering Filipino migrants. Bridging the gap between the deaf community and the hearing society.

These are the issues that four social entrepreneurs based in the Philippines have been working on for years. Finally, their labor of love earned them a ticket to the Ashoka Fellowship Program, a global network of changemakers—some eventually became Nobel Peace Prize winners.

The Ashoka Fellows from the Philippines: Arugaan's Ines Fernandez,
A Single Drop for Safe Water's Kevin Lee, Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship
Program's Cristina Liamzon, Kythe Foundation Inc. Ma. Fatima "Girlie" Garcia-Lorenzo,
and Gualandi Volunteer Service Programme Philippines' John Paul "JP" Maunes.

Ines Fernandez of Arugaan, Kevin Lee of A Single Drop for Safe Water, Cristina Liamzon of Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Program, and John Paul "JP" Maunes of Gualandi Volunteer Service Programme Philippines are the newly elected Ashoka Fellows from the country.  

They joined the country's first Ashoka Fellow, Kythe Foundation Inc. co-founder and executive director Ma. Fatima "Girlie" Garcia-Lorenzo, who was inducted in April 2014, and nearly 3,000 other Fellows in 70 countries.

As an Ashoka Fellow, the chosen social entrepreneurs will receive benefits suchs as start-up financing and professional support services. But the biggest perk of being an Ashoka Fellow is the access to a network of social entrepreneurs from all over the world. This way, the Fellows can find possible partners to advance their causes.

The road to becoming an Ashoka Fellow was long and winding, as explained by Ashoka Philippines' Country Director Tony La Viña. He said the process of choosing Ashoka Fellows took at least long and rigorous nine months to make sure the programs the social entrepreneurs work on are original and sustainable.

Get to know the newest Ashoka Fellows below.

The importance of Arugaan for Nanay Ines

Fernandez with mothers and their children. Photo from Ashoka Philippines.Ashoka Philippines

Fernandez with mothers and their children. Photo from Ashoka Philippines.

Fernandez leads a mother-driven organization called Arugaan, which aims to inform parents, especially mothers, on the benefits of breastfeeding and healthier indigenous food choices in an age where baby food companies push for commercial alternatives.

"'Yung suso, may mammary gland, may purpose 'yan. Hindi 'yan dekorasyon," she said in an interview with GMA News Online.

Nanay Ines, as she is fondly called, has been in the know of this issue since the 1980s. She was one of those who pushed for the passage of the Milk Code, as signed by President Corazon Aquino in 1986. But she continued her fight in different communities through her organization Arugaan.

Aside from teaching mothers to breastfeed and give their children with nutritious food, Arugaan also teaches singles and mothers-to-be to prepare for childbirth and family life.

"Kailan ka ba magpe-prepare? Kung nandiyan na? Before you make a choice, dapat alam mo na," she said.

Former US Peace Corps asks for A Single Drop for Safe Water

Lee talks to community members about WaSH.Ashoka Philippines

Lee was born in Johannesburg in South Africa to American parents, but he was raised in New Zealand. He first arrived in the Philippines in 2004 as US Peace Corps member. Today, he is a permanent resident in the country, leading an organization that provides safe water for vulnerable communities.

Before his stint with the Peace Corps was ending, Lee discovered that many communities in the Philippines do not have access to clean water.

"WaSH (water, sanitation and hygiene) should be a priority but it isn't," he said during his acceptance speech.

Lee goes beyond the usual help, his team also ensures that the community helps themselves by partnering with local governments. To date, he has provided quality water to communities in Benguet, Camarines Sur, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Eastern Visayas, Palawan, and Panay. A Single Drop for Safe Water is also planning to reach out to more conflict areas in Mindanao.

"Superman can't fix it, the communities should do it," he said.

Lee's efforts will also be supported by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals.

Empowering fellow Pinoy migrants

The graduates of LSE Program as headed by Liamzon.Ashoka Philippines

According to Liamzon, one of the problems of overseas Filipino workers is financial management because of the lack of financial literacy. Because of this, many Filipino migrants go back home thinking they can finally taste the fruits of their years of labor, only to find out that they have to go back to step one.

"OFWs take it upon themselves to take sole responsibility of the financial upkeep and future of the immediate and extended family, which shouldn't be the case," she said.

This pushed Liamzon to start the LSE Program, which aims to empower the migrant workers to take control of their finances to have a better quality of life for their families and even relatives. OFWs also learn about leadership and entrepreneurial skills to help them attain a good life even after working abroad.

Being a resident of Italy for years before coming home to the Philippines, Liamzon's program has been active in five Italian cities of Rome, Naples, Milan, Florence, and Turin since 2008. Now, the Program has branches in Hong Kong, Dubai, Paris, Brussels, The Hague, and Macau.

Maunes wants the deaf community to be heard

Maunes speaks in Filipno sign language to a young girl.Ashoka Philippines

All Gualandi Volunteer Service Programme Philippines—the organization that Maunes co-founded—wants is for the deaf community to be included.

Maunes said that deafness is considered as one of the most invisible disabilities; thus, the people who suffer from this condition are usually set aside.  

"There are people who cannot fully participate because of language barrier," he explained.

He also said that his organization does not demand for the entire Philippines to learn the Filipino sign language. The group just wants for local government agencies as well as the media—especially in newscasts—to provide sign language interpreters, which can be useful during disasters.

"All we're asking is to provide sign language interpreters... Without sign language, the deaf will always be excluded," he said.

Maunes added that one of the reasons there is a big gap between the deaf community and the hearing society is because the government does not recognize Filipino sign language as the natural language for the deaf. There have been some small steps toward progress, however; for example, Senator Bam Aquino authored Senate Bill 2118, which declares Filipino sign language as the national sign language of the deaf. 

"The Philippines is one of the few countries that does not recognize sign language... As long as the Philippines recognizes Filipino sign language as the natural language of the deaf, Filipino deaf people will always be disenfranchised," he said.— BM, GMA News

To nominate an Ashoka Fellow, visit

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Based on the 2015 Census of Population with a Total Population of 100,979,303 and 2010-2015 Population Growth Rate of 1.72 and calculation using Geometric Equation

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