On May 26, 2017, POPCOM-CAR formally signed a memorandum of understanding with Building Inter Tribal Eco development Inc. (BITE Inc.) to fulfill the targets of Zero Unmet Need for modern Family Planning in the region. This is in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order no. 12 which fully supports the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act.
BITE Inc. is a medical service organization who has been active and successful in delivering services to couples with unmet need in Region 2. The agreement allows BITE Inc. to deliver FP resources to provinces of the Cordilleras and directly target couples who have been identified through POPCOM’s online database. Through the agreement, POPCOM-CAR and BITE Inc. will reach around 1,500 couples by giving them the FP service they need for spacing or limiting childbirth from now until October 2017. They can also conduct Family Development Sessions on RPFP in coordination with the Department of Social Welfare and Development-CAR.
The organization’s supply of long lasting family planning methods comes from their partnership with the UN Population Fund. Partnerships with civil society organizations, like BITE Inc., allows POPCOM to still reach these women and couples who are clamoring for long lasting and more effective Family Planning methods even with legal setbacks in the Supreme Court.
There are 5,270 couples and women of reproductive age (WRA) in POPCOM’s RPFP Online System who have unmet need for modern family planning. This is based on the couple and WRA profiles collected in the conduct of Responsible Parenthood classes, Pre-Marriage Counselling and Family Development Sessions across the region. The Commission identifies unmet need for modern family planning as those couples and WRA who have signified intention to use or shift to modern methods from traditional means.
Part of the overall strategy to reach these couples and WRA is through the conduct of outreach activities. POPCOM together with the DOH intends to reach around 60% of the total projected unmet need in the region in medical missions and other activities. Engagement of CSO partners like BITE Inc. is part of the implementation strategy to accomplish this.
The current Temporary Restraining order by the Supreme Court stops any public facility to provide FP implant services, specifically Implanon and Implanon NXT. It also prohibits the Food and Drug Administration from “granting any and all pending applications for registration and/or recertification of reproductive products and supplies including contraceptive drugs and devices”. This puts more than 400,000 women of reproductive age in the Cordilleras who will need family planning services in the next few years because the supply will not be available in public facilities in the near future.
But the ban only limits agents of the Department of Health which includes Rural Health Units, DOH retained hospitals, public hospitals and attached agencies. This means that private entities like civil society organizations and clinics are not covered by the order. Organizations like BITE Inc. may still administer implants to needing women as long as their supply does not come from a public agency.
POPCOM has been very vigilant in gaining the support of the Filipinos and in seeking the lifting of the TRO from the Supreme Court. As of May 2017, POPCOM has already amassed 300,000 signatures supporting the action and is still continuing to garner support.