The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) is acknowledging the efforts of local government units (LGUs) nationwide in elevating the number of Filipinos currently availing of family planning, as evidenced from the latest annual report of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, or the RPRH Law.

POPCOM revealed the RPRH Law has resulted in a two-fold increase in the number of family planning service clients in the Philippines: from 4 million married women of reproductive age, or WRA, who use modern family planning methods during the enactment of the law, to about 8 million in 2019.

The annual accomplishment report cites that the 2019 modern contraceptive prevalence rate for all women was projected at 58%, or around 7.8 million women, as modern family planning users—almost within target of the Philippine Development Plan, which is 60% to 65%. As such, it is deemed that 2.8 million unintended pregnancies, 669,000 unsafe abortions and 1,470 maternal deaths were averted.

The Family Planning Spending Assessment study states that provinces, cities and municipalities spent about P1.9 billion for family planning in 2019. For FP funding, municipalities used about 63% of total expenditures; cities at 26%; and provinces, 11%. POPCOM also aids in continuous funding and institutionalization of family planning strategies by providing technical assistance, information, services and grants to LGUs.

According to Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III, it is within LGUs that family planning programs and services are activated, with local-based doctors, nurses, midwives, population officers, barangay health and population volunteers in health centers/service delivery networks as enablers. Without these partners and their facilities, the goals and provisions on family planning based on the RPRH Law would otherwise be ineffective.

“LGUs’ undertakings and participation in family planning programs have a positive impact on a household’s income, as one with an ideal size of about two to three children will have sufficient financial resources to provide for every member such as food, shelter, education for the kids. A well-provided family therefore contributes to poverty amelioration,” POPCOM’s executive director said.

Confirmed Perez: “In a macroeconomic view, it contributes to overall national development, where families do not have to always rely on the government to provide for their everyday necessities; thus, funds can be allocated for other basic services.”

KRAs within LGUs: Aside from family planning, LGUs also are instrumental in helping agencies facilitate the fulfillment of four other key programs of the RPRH Law.

For maternal, neonatal, child health and nutrition, postpartum visits have improved from 57% in 2018 to 62% in 2019, while the antenatal care rate increased from 53% to 58% in the said period. The DOH also revealed an increase in the usage of maternal health-care services such as antenatal care, postpartum visits, facility-based delivery and skilled-birth attendance in the past five years. Local health facilities have been upgraded and managed by a total of 22,730 health professionals by end of 2019.

On adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH), there was a rise in maternal care and other health services for adolescent mothers, despite the recent climb in numbers on very young adolescent pregnancies in the 10-14 age group. Advocacy on ASRH in 2019 has reached a total of 351,362 adolescents. LGUs have also supported programs by hosting ASRH learning sessions, demand-generation activities, POPCOM-led health-summits and youth camps, classes, as well as talks and lectures vital in tackling early child births and repeat incidences.

For sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, 10,287 out of 12,778 newly diagnosed HIV cases in the country are currently enrolled in the anti-retroviral treatment programs, which are available at DOH-designated treatment hubs. LGUs have likewise accommodated teaching sessions in communities as a key strategy to reach set targets. They have also helped establish about 153 social hygiene clinics across the country, which provide health care, including HIV prevention, testing and treatment services, primarily to key affected populations.

With regard to the elimination of violence against women and children, there has been an increase in the number of local mechanisms responding to such cases, with 127 (87%) of 145 cities and 1,237 (83%) of 1,489 municipalities having established Local Committees on Antitrafficking and VAWCs as of 2019. In the provinces, 57 (70%) of the 81 provinces have opened  their version of the said committees – an improvement from the past year’s 45, or 56%. The DOH’s Women and Children Protection Program also had a total of women and children protection units in 57 provinces and 10 chartered cities.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government’s 2019 assessment report showed that 38,824 out of 42,045 barangays, or 92%, have established VAWC desks—an improvement from 2018’s 29,929, or 71%. Out of those assessed, 53% fall under “mature level;” 22% as “progressive level;” 19%, “ideal;” and 5%, “basic.”

Partnership with LGUs: To complement the energies exerted by LGUs, Perez committed that the 300-plus-strong personnel of POPCOM across the Philippines remain ready to assist—and even lead—efforts on the ground and in the grassroots level to implement family planning and related health programs that were impeded with the surge in the number of Covid-19-related services.

“In the spirit of inclusivity in terms of service provision, we will be working closely with the LGUs to ensure that no Filipino will be left behind,” the undersecretary committed. “POPCOM is able, ready and willing to go the extra mile with local governments to lend a hand, especially the marginalized and disadvantaged in society, true to our calling of empowering Filipino families.”

The POPCOM chief also renewed the agency’s call to local chief executives and barangay captains to factor-in the disadvantaged members of society in rolling out their services. According to the government agency, the above-mentioned include women and girls, the elderly, indigenous peoples, and the like, who may easily be left out because of limitations imposed by the series of quarantines, or physical barriers such as geography or lack of facilities to reach those who may be unable to lead normal, healthy and productive lives due to the ongoing health crisis.

“That said, we again make an appeal to our local leaders to always include in their works women of reproductive age—especially those who are pregnant, and the youth—particularly young girls who may fall victim to teenage pregnancies, financially-challenged families, and the elderly, most specifically those who are living by themselves or who have comorbid diseases to COVID-19,” he requested.

Aside from LGUs, the agency attributes the hike in numbers to the complementary work of national government agencies, and civil society organizations nationwide, with which POPCOM closely collaborates to execute family planning strategies and programs across the country.  ###