Manila: Proponents of a controversial bill which seeks to legalise the use of artificial contraception in the Philippines have demanded that President Benigno Aquino act swiftly on the issue.

Proponents of the bill say it will help slow the country's population growth, and take the pressure off development.

A total of 94 million people live in the Philippines, and use of contraception is against the law.

Aquino has promised to resume talks with Catholic bishops on the issue.

Dr Ernesto Pernia of the University of the Philippines (UP) School of Economics said: "The government appears immobilised owing to opposition from Catholic Church and other conservative groups. But the influence of the Church on the fate of political leaders seems overrated".

"Majority of Filipinos regard the country's 2.5 per cent annual population growth as hindrance to development, requiring policy intervention," Dr Pernia said.

Dr Dennis Mapa of the UP School of Statistics said: "The failure to pass the reproductive Health bill is very unfortunate because the impact of rapid population growth is irreversible."

Vicente Paterno, chair of the steering committee for a consensus bill on population, said: "Family planning now should focus on the poor to promote responsible parenthood."