Consenting adults: Businessmen back new population bill

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By Patricia Vega

Reproductive health advocates have found little success pushing for RH and population management laws in previous Congresses. But with the Aquino administration set to shape its legislative agenda in the coming months, a consortium of business organizations have stepped forward with a proposal for a new population bill.

The Bishops-Businessmen Conference (BBC), Makati Business Club (MBC), Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), and the Philippine Center for Population and Development (PCPD) recently concluded a series of nationwide consultations on the proposed bill, which seeks to amend the National Population Act of 1971. The group’s Joint Steering Committee, chaired by former Senator Vicente Paterno, gathered sectoral representatives from the academe, business, government, NGOs and people’s organizations, and the religious to discuss the bill’s guiding principles and implementing mechanisms. “Our consensus sessions suggest that this is a bill that is acceptable to most (stakeholders),” says Paterno.

L-R: Oman Jiao, Mercedes Concepcion and Sen. Vicente Paterno

L-R: Oman Jiao, Mercedes Concepcion and Sen. Vicente Paterno

How so? The bill steers clear of the controversial aspects of the RH Bill—most notably the bill’s compulsion to enforce specific forms of artificial contraception—and focuses on education and access that enables individuals, couples and families to make informed fertility choices. By focusing on family planning, the bill gains the support of ecumenical faiths and the Muslim community, who have more accepting views on the subject. Such approval is important, notes Paterno. “We want to craft a bill that is for all Filipinos, not just for Catholics.”

participants weigh in on the new bill

participants weigh in on the new bill

And while the Catholic Church hierarchy has strongly denounced RH legislation, some bishops consulted by the group are less disapproving, merely requesting that the group consider the Catholic viewpoint in drafting and sponsoring the consensus bill on population.

The bill’s underlying principle is social justice, particularly: giving each citizen the opportunity to experience a better quality of life and breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Giving couples the ability to manage family size enables them to provide better nutrition and education to their existing children, who will, in turn, get better jobs and become ample providers for their future families. A smaller population size also gives government the opportunity to allocate resources on improving services, instead of spreading out the funds to service larger populations at the expense of quality.

The business groups are targeting mid-August for the filing of the consensus bill on population in both Congress and the Senate.

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