POPCOM worries over declining access to family planning of Pinoys

BY 2022, the Philippine population may explode to 113,798,224 according to the estimate of the Commission on Population (Popcom).

From its current count at 104 million today (2017), Popcom stressed, here will be a greater possibility that the population may increase following the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court in 2015 to the Department of Health (DOH) and its partners halting temporarily the “procurement, selling, distributing, dispensing or administering, advertising and promoting the hormonal contraceptive Implanon and Implanon NXT.” 

In his demographic scenarios, Popcom Executive Director, Dr. Juan Antonio A Perez III explained, “With the contraceptive implant, Philippine population will rise to about 110,145,592 by 2020.”

“Without implants in the national program, there will be an additional 3,804,172 births by the time President Duterte completes his term, Perez said.

He explained the implants are more preferred by young Filipino women to be safe and effective method for them.

DOH stopped its implant services following the TRO, although progestin subdermal implant (PSI) is recognized by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as one of the safe and effective modern methods since November 2014.

The contraceptive implant, which is a small rod about the size of a matchstick inserted under the skin in the upper arm, slowly releases progestogen hormone that can help prevent pregnancy. In The Philippines, contraceptive Implanon and Implanon NXT are at issue.

Perez noted that from across the country, POPCOM regional offices and partner civil society organizations (CSOs) reported that despite the TRO “there is still a high demand for implants. Basic family planning (FP) services are not provided to women with expressed needs in areas like Koronadal City and Tarlac.”

Meanwhile, in South Cotabato, women shifted to more temporary methods, like DMPA (depot medroxyprogesterone acetate) or DepoProvera injectables. 

“It was estimated (that) about PhP260 million worth of implant units are nearing expiration and will be wasted if they remain unutilized. In all the 15 regions there were no adverse reactions to the commodity ever reported,” he pointed out. 

He stressed that CSOs and private healthcare providers complained that the TRO had “planted the seed of fear from using implants.”

“Friendly Care Clinics in the regions observed a growing uncertainty among current implant users,” he said.

He added that it is also for this reason that “there is a declining access to contraceptives and FP commodities in Caloocan and Payatas,” which is also burdening the private healthcare providers. 

He, however noted that more than 100,000 ordinary Filipinos had signed an online and offline signature campaign aimed at petitioning the SC for the lifting of the TRO.

People trust the High Court would rather see the Filipino families empowered, instead of making them poorer, starving and dying, every day of their lives.

He also expressed fear that mothers dying during childbirth may also rise by an additional 1000 deaths a year during the next six years. 

“These will be the first of the many adverse effects of derailing the full implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Act of 2012 (Republic Act 10354, or simply, RPRH Law) with a temporary restraining order by the SC, still hanging in the air,” he lamented.

The RPRH Law guarantees universal access to all methods of modern contraception, comprehensive sexuality education, and maternal and childcare. 

“Popcom is concerned that mothers, wives, young women and their children may get sick, worsen their impoverished plight, or die because free family planning services, under the National Family Planning (FP) Program being carried out by the DOH, under the Duterte administration, are not readily available to them.”

Couples in public health centers are offered FP information and services by doctors and other healthcare providers—but they can choose freely—between the natural methods of family planning or go with the medically safe modern methods of family planning, like pills, injectables, condoms, intrauterine devices (IUDs), bilateral tubal ligation for women, or undergo vasectomy, for men.