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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ifugao execs pass Reproductive Health Law... 2nd in the Philippines

Published on page A18 of the December 4, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

BAGUIO CITY -- Ifugaos are now guided by a law that protects their reproductive health rights.

The Ifugao Reproductive Health and Responsible Parenthood Ordinance of 2006 (Provincial Ordinance 2006-033) was highlighted as an important piece of local legislation during the World’s AIDS Day celebrations in Lagawe town on Dec. 1.

The ordinance is the second to be approved in the country after Aurora province.

Ifugao Gov. Glenn Prudenciano, who authored and pushed the measure through the provincial board as vice governor in August, said he based his draft measure on the same principles offered by the pending national reproductive health bill.

Prudenciano assumed the gubernatorial post in November after the death of Gov. Benjamin Cappleman.

He said Ifugao residents discovered that there was nothing to fear from reproductive health policies that some critics have labeled as the foundations for an abortion law.

Like the draft reproductive health bill still awaiting plenary discussions in Congress, the Ifugao ordinance makes it the government’s duty to make information, health care services and medicine available to Ifugao residents regardless of their cultural or religious affiliations.

The ordinance states that it is the Ifugao residents’ right “to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of [giving birth to] their children, [as well as] to make other decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.”

The law grants residents full understanding of all birth control options available to them, Prudenciano said.

The law also obliges government teachers to provide classrooms and out-of-school youths all information necessary to explain to them what reproductive health and sexuality are all about.

Prudenciano said the local government has taken into account the impact of uncontrolled population growth on their economy.

He said Ifugao, until recently, was considered the fourth poorest province in the Philippines.

“Government decided we must graduate [from that rank] so it pumped investments into the province. But I realized that it was not enough because we have a large population who are leaving because they no longer have lands to till,” Prudenciano told the Inquirer.

Providing Ifugao residents proper information about population management and insights into their sexuality is “foresight,” he said, for the local government to sustain economic growth.

Cultural dimension

But there is also a cultural dimension that makes the law necessary, he said.

Ifugao tradition places a high value on family, so some men would replace wives who could not bear them children, he said.

Prudenciano said the law empowers women to deal with this male-centered bias, which still surfaces in some communities of Ifugao province “despite the fact that the general population is now younger and educated.”

“Highland Thoughts,” a compilation of essays, short stories and poems written by Ifugao youths, also showed how tradition could help Ifugaos plan their families.

An article written by Manuel Dulawan enumerates age-old Ifugao values that, he said, are still relevant to present-day family planning principles. Dulawan said Ifugao’s complicated courtship period, the ritualistic obligations once a betrothal is arranged and a “trial period” among couples could delay marriage. He also cited tribal inheritance customs that say “only the first [two] children of the couple are entitled to inherit their parents’ property.”

Article written by: Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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