Aquino signs family-planning law

MANILA: Philippine President Benigno Aquino has signed into law a family-planning bill that was blocked by the Catholic Church for more than a decade, a spokeswoman said on Saturday.

The law will take effect next month, presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said.

"The passage into law of the Responsible Parenthood Act closes a highly divisive chapter of our history — a chapter borne of the convictions of those who argued for, or against this act, whether in the legislative branch or in civil society," she said.

"At the same time, it opens the possibility of cooperation and reconciliation among different sectors in society: engagement and dialogue characterized not by animosity, but by our collective desire to better the welfare of the Filipino people."

The law allows government funding for contraceptives that would be made available especially for poor women.

It promotes responsible parenthood and requires officials to provide information on family planning options as well as education on reproductive health and sexuality.

The Catholic Church, which approves only natural forms of birth control, had blocked the legislation for the last 13 years.

The Church and its supporters said the law was immoral and would promote promiscuity.

Asia's largest Catholic country has a population of 94 million and an average annual growth rate of 1.9%, one of the fastest in the region.

Economists have stressed the need for the country to slow down its population growth to improve social and economic development.

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