Manila: The Catholic Church on Saturday staged a show of force ahead of a crucial voting in Congress on an important legislative measure on population control.
With families in tow and wearing red clothes, an estimated 50,000 people braved rainy weather to show solidarity with the Catholic Church against the Reproductive Health Bill (RH Bill).
According to organisers, led by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and organisations such as Couples for Christ, among others, the rally, which was held along with celebrations of Holy Mass, was aimed at showing Congress that many Filipinos were against the RH bill, which has since been referred to by the government as the “Responsible Parenthood Bill.”
Aside from members of Church organisations, politicians such as Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Gregorio Honasan and Vicente Sotto also took part in the event held at the Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue Shrine in suburban Pasig City.
The Responsible Parenthood measure has become the subject of contentious debate among the Church. Those favouring the stand of the Church argued that the Philippines could lose its edge economically if it chooses the path of encouraging the use of birth control measures.
Aaron Veloso, a project assistant at the Development Academy of the Philippines, said that the Philippines has much to learn from the experience of neighbouring countries like Singapore and Japan on controlling the growth of population.
He said these countries are now confronted with problems on a deficient workforce due to an ageing population.
The Philippines has a population of 95 million and has one of Asia’s fastest birth rates.
“There is a myth of overpopulation in the Philippines,” he said adding that what government really needs to do is provide wider access to education and basic health services.
For its part, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) sees economic power in a young, massive workforce. “The ‘youth bulge’ has enormous potential for stimulating economic growth through productive employment, asset creation, and investment,” it said
Based on ADB Key Indicators 2011, 900,000 young Filipino workers enter the labour force every year.
For its part, the presidential palace asked the public to support the Responsible Parenthood Bill being pushed by President Benigno Aquino.
In a radio interview on Saturday over government radio station dzRB, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) chief Manuel Mamba asked lawmakers to pass the bill because of its significance to the nation.
“We should read through measure and think about its benefits. Let us not misinform our people,” he said, adding the government has an obligation to give the people choices about the size of their families.
Members of the House of Representatives and Senate are expected to vote on the Responsible Parenthood Bill in a few weeks’ time.