OUR latest series is on the simmering controversy on population control. We look at two local governments — Manila and Pangasinan. The first is a horror story as far as women’s rights advocates and family-planning NGOs are concerned. Our report shows that under Mayor Lito Atienza, NGOs giving out contraceptives have been forced to do so on the sly and under the table. They are also being harassed by City Hall, which issued an executive order that has been interpreted as a ban on artificial contraceptives. Women’s groups say the EO and the Mayor’s policies are illegal and are planning to sue him in court.
In Pangasinan, meanwhile, the proactive policies of Gov. Victor Agbayani have succeeded in reducing that province’s population growth to 1.9 percent, below the national average of 2.3 percent. Agbayani has succeeded in neutralizing opposition from Catholic clergy and has promoted a range of family planning options, including both natural and artificial methods. His government has been touted as a model for rational and pro-choice family planning, and shows that if given a choice, women would opt for birth control.
The series points out, however, that the lack of a national family-planning program and clear directives from Malacañang have made local health workers confused. They — and the women they serve — are often left to the mercy of the religious views of local officials and their assessment of how much weight to give to population control. It points out that President Arroyo did not include population control in her 10-point agenda, opting to leave the matter to the discretion of local governments, sometimes with disastrous results.
Read on at pcij.org.