MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive order (EO) calling for the implementation of provisions of the Reproductive Health (RH) law that were not stopped temporarily by the Supreme Court, officials said Wednesday.
The nearly 2-year-old temporary restraining order (TRO) prohibits the Department of Health (DOH) from approving new registrations for contraceptives. It also stopped the government from promoting and distributing the hormonal contraceptives “Implanon” and “Implanon NXT.”
If the current registration of contraceptives expires without a final Supreme Court decision on legal challenges to the RH law, the government will be limited to offering tubal ligation, vasectomy and natural family planning methods, said JP Perez of the Commission on Population (POPCOM).
Duterte issued the order to "motivate, urge, and even pressure the Supreme Court to stop dilly-dallying" on the RH Law, National Economic and Development Authority Secretary-General Ernesto Pernia said.
The government wants to help Filipinos manage the size of their families to help bring down the poverty rate to as low as 14 percent by the end of Duterte's term in 2022, Pernia said.
"You don't want women to have unwanted babies because then, they would have difficulty raising their babies to their full potential," Pernia said.
"A year and a half is too long a wait... It (EO) is just telling the public, including the Supreme Court, that the government cannot continue to tolerate the delay in judgment," Pernia said.
Duterte instructed local government units and health officials to work with the POPCOM to "map out and identify women who are in need of family planning," he said.
"It will depend on the imagination and creativity of the local government executives. If they are imaginative and creative, they can find ways of implementing the RH law despite the TRO," he said.
Since the high court's TRO does not cover the private sector, the EO also urges non-government organizations and people's groups to make "modern family planning services and modern contraceptives be adopted by women of reproductive age," Pernia said.
Duterte's predecessor, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, signed the RH Law in 2012, drawing the ire of the Church, as he sought to offer free condoms and other contraceptives to the poor.
The Philippine population is expected to reach 105.75 million by the end of 2017, the POPCOM said last month.
At least 1.69 million Filipinos births are expected in 2017. Three Filipino babies are projected to be born every minute this year.
"This trend is expected to continue up to 2022... due to the relatively high fertility rates of Filipino women," POPCOM said.
Each Filipina aged between 15 to 49 is expected to have an average of three children, it said.