Business groups back RH bill

By Sheila Crisostomo, The Philippine Star

Posted at Nov 16 2012 01:05 AM | Updated as of Nov 16 2012 07:13 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Major business groups yesterday signed a “Manifesto of Support” for family planning programs aimed at advancing the “reproductive rights of poor women.”

Their declaration of support for family planning was in response to a challenge from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which underscored that family planning is a good investment that can yield “unprecedented reward for economic development.”

The signing of the manifesto came at a time when Congress appeared to be dragging its feet in finalizing a Reproductive Health bill.

The six groups are the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Employer’s Confederation of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Financial Executives of the Philippines, and Philippine Business for Social Progress.

In the manifesto, they pledged to help women gain greater access to family planning services and information as declared in the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning last July.

They also committed to mobilize investment in family planning and other reproductive health services.

These include provision of family planning services and reproductive health services to employees and their families through the “Family Welfare Program in the workplace as mandated by Article 134 of the Labor Code and other relevant programs; implement FP program in the communities of corporate social responsibility and promote the establishment of FP as a “core business or as a social enterprise to facilitate provision of FP services,” among others.

During the summit, the UNFPA urged the business community to make family planning commodities and services accessible to workers.

UNFPA Country Representative Ugochi Daniels said there were studies showing that investing in FP “helps reduce poverty, improve health, promote gender equality, enable adolescents to finish their schooling and increase labor force participation.”

“Access to FP, which is an essential human right, yields unprecedented reward for economic development. The costs of ignoring that right include poverty, exclusion, poor health and gender inequality,” she said.

Daniels added there is “indisputable evidence that when family planning is integrated into broader economic and social development initiatives, it can have positive multiplier effect on human development and wellbeing of the entire nation.”

Public resources, she said, may never be enough, thus the need to tap alternative sources to ensure that couples would have access to pertinent family planning information and services.

She also cited the London summit last July during which funds were mobilized to make “voluntary family planning services available to 120 more million women in developing nations by the end of the decade.”

“Today, we are replicating that move with the hope of mobilizing the business sector support to provide family planning services in the workplace and in the communities supported by their corporate social responsibility programs. With the Philippines’ employment rate of 97 percent, translated into some 37.5 million workers, the business sector can indeed make a dent in the government’s effort to provide voluntary family planning to a wider population,” Daniels said.

According to Health Undersecretary Dr. Ted Herbosa, around six million Filipino women have “unmet needs for family planning services either for spacing or limiting pregnancies.”