The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) maintains that the national program on family planning is a crucial element in radically reducing incidence of poverty, citing the latest pronouncement from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) that the poverty rate in the Philippines can be cut in the years between 2016 and 2022.

            Specifically, Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III, MD, MPH said that, while their direct impact is within individual households, family planning programs’ beneficial effects could carry over to the macroeconomic level of the country.

            “Efforts on family planning bear both an immediate and eventual influence on the Philippine economy,” the POPCOM executive director pointed out. “For instance, the reduction of prevalence of unplanned or unwanted pregnancies translates to potential savings for many families.”

He further noted, “Those funds could have been allocated for collectively improving the quality of life of family members, such as for healthcare, education, livelihood, and many others as possible investments for a better future.”

The undersecretary explained that it is at the household level where improvements in the quality of life should manifest: “Having fewer children, or having the number of children one can afford, leads to increased household savings, improved nutrition and better educational opportunities.”

Reduction of early childbearing key policy

            Households headed by the youngest mothers stand to benefit the most from a family planning program that also addresses early childbearing or adolescent/teen pregnancy.

Perez cited a 2016 study by Alejandro Herrin: Education, Earnings and Health Effects of Teenage Pregnancy in the Philippines, which found that early childbearing reduces an adolescent’s future earning capacity, as it diminishes the chances of completing high school, or K to 12. Lack of a diploma results in a loss of P300 a day income for young mothers.

Thus, the POPCOM chief said it is crucial for the Philippines to address the family planning and reproductive health needs of the poorest and youngest mothers, in order to make a dent on core hunger and poverty in the country.

            He reiterated Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia’s earlier pronouncement about the intensified implementation and full funding of the National Program on Population and Family Planning or NPPFP for the next three years, which will widen its scope and impact. To address the issue on teenage pregnancies, POPCOM will assist the Department of Education in boosting the nationwide school-based rollout of comprehensive sexuality-education programs to curb teenage pregnancies.

            As the NEDA chief encouraged the practice of savings as a protection versus unexpected income losses or expenses, the head of POPCOM underscored that practicing responsible parenthood, as a way of life, will make a family less vulnerable to so-called “financial shocks.”

            “Part of POPCOM’s crusade is to help deliver the government’s goal of enabling comfortable and secure lives for Filipinos by 2022 through family planning,” Perez stated. “By then, we can measure the level of our success hopefully against a drastically diminished prevalence of poverty throughout the Philippines.”