Oct. 2 - Philippines seeks legislation that will expand access to birth control measures as a means to lower population and help reduce poverty, but the influential Catholic Church aggressively opposes contraceptive use. Michaela Cabrera reports.
Liza Cabiya-an has 14 children. She used to be on birth control pills, but couldn't always afford it. And when a Catholic mayor in Manila banned contraceptives from public clinics, it was even harder to access. Only five of her children are in school. (SOUNDBITE) (Filipino) LIZA CABIYA-AN, MOTHER OF 14, SAYING: "Sometimes I regret that I was not able to send my children to school. Even if at least one could graduate from high school, there's really no way we can afford it." President Benigno Aquino has thrown support behind a legislation that seeks to provide wider access to modern family planning methods and sex education. He is risking the ire of the Catholic Church which is aggressively campaigning against the bill. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EXECUTIVE SECRETARY OF COMMISSION ON FAMILY AND LIFE AT THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS' CONFERENCE OF THE PHILIPPINES, MELVIN CASTRO, SAYING: "They're poor not because they have no access to contraceptives; because they have no work. Give them work. It will be the ultimate, most effective birth-spacing means." (SOUNDBITE) (English) CO-AUTHOR OF REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH BILL, SENATOR PIA CAYETANO, SAYING: "What kind of a labour force will you have if these children cannot even finish grade school, that some of them will die before they reach their fifth birthday, that many of them, will seek job overseas just because that's where the jobs are." Contraceptive use in the Philippines is lower compared to Thailand and Indonesia. Consequently, its population is growing much faster. It is also lagging behind, in growth. Economists are saying that for the country to reap the benefits of a young workforce -- it is crucial to slow down the country's fertility rate. This will allow families to spend more on health and education, and enable children like Liza's to break out of the cycle of poverty.