Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered government agencies to ensure free access to contraceptives for 6 million women who cannot obtain them, officials said Wednesday, in a move expected to be opposed by the dominant Roman Catholic church.
President Rodrigo Duterte says he wants to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, especially among the poor.
The 2 million women should have access to them by 2018, and all the rest thereafter, the order added.
Mr Duterte’s predecessor had to fight for years to pass a bill extending the use of contraceptives in the country.
But the Supreme Court placed a temporary ban on the distribution of contraceptive implants under the law in 2015 after complaints from anti-abortion groups. The government has appealed.
More than 80% of Filipinos are Roman Catholics, according to the Pew Research Center.
The push to achieve “zero unmet need for family planning” is an important part of the Philippines’ plans to cut poverty, Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
The government wants to cut the poverty rate to 13% by 2022, down from 21.6% last year, he added.
He said the government believed contraceptive provision was “pro-life, pro-women, pro-children, and pro-economic development”.
The Philippines is the only country in the Asia-Pacific where the rate of teen pregnancies has risen over the last two decades, according to the UN.
Juan Antonio Perez, executive director of the Commission on Population, said if the contraceptives are made available to the 6 million women with unmet family planning needs, the contraceptive prevalence rate can increase to 65 percent, from the current 40 percent.
The Philippines’ population, now at 104 million, is growing at a rate of around 1.7 percent yearly, but the growth may be reduced to 1.4 percent if the campaign is fully implemented by 2022, Perez added.