Philippine President Benigno Aquino reveals government's population control programme in meeting with expatriates

Manila: Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Monday said the government will start providing contraceptives to poor couples in a bid to control the growth of the country's population which has ballooned to more than 90 million

Aquino made the statement in San Francisco where he was on the last leg of his visit to the United States. The president presided over a town hall meeting with Filipino expatriates in the US as well as with communities in Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan and Dubai via videoconference.

Pending bill

Aquino said government will no longer wait for the passage of a pending reproductive health bill in Congress and will proceed with its population control programme.

"The government is obligated to inform everybody of their responsibilities and their choices. At the end of the day, government might provide assistance to those who are without means if they want to employ a particular method."

"I believe the couple will be in the best position to determine what is best for the family, how to space [the births], what methods they can rely on and so forth," said Aquino whose meeting was broadcast worldwide.

"They face the responsibility for the children that they bring in and government is willing to assist them," said Aquino.

The Philippine government has not yet placed a ceiling on the number of children Filipino couples should have.

Aquino was mum about his position on population control when he campaigned for the presidency early this year.

The bachelor president is known as a devout Catholic. The Catholic Church has firmly opposed artificial birth control methods. The Catholic Church called for the ouster of Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral after she led a campaign to distribute free condoms in Metro Manila on Valentine's Day.

According to a January survey, around 68 per cent of Filipinos said the government should allow couples to gain access to all means of family planning methods, a private pollster said in a survey done in January.

Former President Gloria Arroyo did not heed the call of the three influential bishops who criticised Cabral.

As a result, before the May 10 elections, the influential Catholic Church campaigned against candidates who were for the passage of a bill that allows sex education and the promotion of natural and artificial form of contraception nationwide.


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