CEBU CITY, Philippines – At least 1,600 advocates of Family Planning (FP) from across the Philippines have converged in Cebu for the 2nd National Family Planning Conference and pushed for the full implementation of the Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law of 2012 and President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 12, which call for the attainment of “zero unmet need” for contraceptives down to the grassroots level.

Benjamin de Leon, president of The Forum for Family Planning and Development, underscored that the tremendous success of the conference sends a powerful message of unity, strength and love to all Filipinos, adding that it also sends a message to those who are hell-bent in delaying the implementation of family planning programs and thereby, putting women’s lives in danger every day.

“We are only expecting 800 to 1,000 delegates for this conference but we have reach to 1,600 delegates coming from the different parts of the country,” de Leon shared.

The participants attended the Youth Conference held on November 6-7 at Montebello Villa Hotel in Banilad, Cebu City and the Full Conference on November 8-9 at Waterfront Hotel and Casino in Lahug, Cebu City.

The annual event featured various Plenary, Satellite, Parallel and Breakout Sessions to tackle, share and expound best practices, experiences, and innovations in Family Planning, Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health.

Albay 1st district representative Edcel Lagman, principal author of the RPRH law, said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should come up with a re-certified list of contraceptives and allocate adequate funding for family planning for RH commodities and products.

A temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the high tribunal in June 2015 has been in effect which prohibit the Department of Health (DOH) from including subdermal implanon contraceptives in its family planning program. It also prevented the FDA from renewing the licenses of contraceptive products, which resulted in the expiration and phase out of some 24 brands.

During the conference, the advocates officially launched the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the RPRH law.

DOH undersecretary Herminigildo Valle pointed out that the revised IRR complies with the amendments mandated by the Supreme Court as declared in Imbong versus Ochoa and ALFI versus Garin on the RPRH law.

“Health care service providers who fail and/or refuse to disseminate information regarding programs and services on reproductive health because of his or her religious beliefs will not be punished provided they complied with the requirements as evidence of their beliefs,” part of the revised IRR reads.

Valle highlighted that, “RPRH law is a landmark legislation that laid the foundation in the fulfilment of the reproductive health and rights of all Filipinos toward better health outcomes, and socioeconomic growth and development.”

Delegates of the Youth Conference also came up with a National Declaration which they presented during the Full Conference's Plenary Session with the aim to fully implement the RPRH Law in the country. It will be lobbied to the local and national legislators.

This year, various elected officials who are local chief executives from different local government units, village officials, and those who chaired the Committee on Health attended the annual national event.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas R. Osmeña together with Councilor Mary Ann Delos Santos, deputy mayor on Health Services also graced the event and showed their support for the advocacy.

Senator Risa Hontiveros who also showed her full support for the activity said that it is many a Filipino’s dream to raise a Family of his or her own. She said Family is one of the most enduring parts of Filipino culture citing that for many of us everything begins and ends with the Family which comes in many forms such as having an extended Family and taking care for each other.

“Planning a Family isn’t just about anticipating the number of children, it has just as much to do with providing the best nutrition for the child at such a crucial time of development and protecting the health of mothers as they undergo pregnancy,” the Senator pointed out, adding that she fought for the Expanded Maternity Bill and also fighting for the approval of the Healthy Bulilit Act or the First 1,000 Days Bill.

Family Planning is about confronting the demands of present with the future in mind. It involves anticipating change, thinking it through and embracing what works, she added.

Moreover, the 2nd National Family Planning Conference was made possible through the Department of Health, Commission on Population, The Forum for Family Planning and Development, with the support of various partners and stakeholders. It was anchored on the theme, “Delivering the Promise: Family Planning on the Ground.” (By: Greggy P. Senados/ City of Cebu, Public Information Office)