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USAID "Shifts" Focus to More Aggressive Population Policy for the Philippines

November 15, 2002
Volume 4/ Number 28

Dear Colleague:

A few weeks back, PRI was delighted to hear from a top USAID official that our aid agency was “graduating” the Philippines from family planning/population programs. But things in Washington are not always what they seem. PRI has learned that, although the U.S. will no longer be shipping contraceptives, including abortifacients, to the Philippines, U.S. taxpayers will still be paying millions for the promotion and use of locally manufactured devices. This “shift” in emphasis appears to be an effort by USAID to strengthen its support of anti-natal and anti-people programs in the Philippines.

Steven W. Mosher
President

USAID “Shifts” Focus to More Aggressive Population Policy for the Philippines

USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia and the Near East, Gordon West, at the launching of the Manila-based Family Planning Urban Poor Project in Pasig City, Philippines, this September, announced that USAID will end shipments of free contraceptives to the Philippines in 2004.(1)

Over the past 11 years, Agence France Presse reports, USAID has contributed about $40 million worth of contraception to the
Philippines.(2) In 2004, free contraception will end, says USAID, but its support and promotion of family planning will continue with funding for social marketing and education, especially in poor regions.(3)

This decision was announced as a “shift” in USAID policy. But PRI has discovered that USAID plans to continue to aggressively promote controversial population control programs in the Philippines for many years to come.

Antonio de los Reyes, the former head of the Philippine’s Commission on Population (POPCOM), points out that POPCOM directed “the flow of funds from... the United States Agency for International Development” into rural programs—through Regional Offices which routinely violated norms for reproductive choice by being “virtually limited to [providing] contraceptive pills and intra-uterine devices.” Informing women of risks associated with methods of contraception was lax, if non-existent. And, Mr. de los Reyes confirms, “an elaborate system of incentives [read: bribes] for workers and volunteers” was established to increase
“acceptors.”(4)

In village after village, rural poor were given bribes to accept surgical sterilization, which were performed en masse in assembly-line fashion.
“[I]tinerant teams would round up... patients from assigned outreach areas, gather as many as 100 together in any nearby clinic where they would queue for their turn on makeshift surgical beds lined up side by side 10 to 15 aside. A doctor and nurse would then conduct the mass surgery and finish them in a weekend.”(5) Mr. de los Reyes said that he is personally aware of at least once case of a victim who died of internal bleeding following an involuntary sterilization in this USAID-supported campaign.

The Commission on Population, USAID’s partner in the Philippines, continues to use these same methods today to drive down the birth rate with USAID encouragement. In fact, POPCOM states proudly that it is continuing its “population program despite opposition.”(6)

Needless to say, opposition to the USAID Philippine’s Mission continues to be fierce. “USAID has been funding population control programs channeled through NGOs for years, and has always been vigorously opposed here,” said Fenny C. Tatad, president of Women of Asia for Development and Enterprise. Tatad, like many more in the Philippines, would like to see USAID shift all funds related to family planning to basic aid. “Nothing could please us more than if USAID funds were channeled to basic health or food production, or water sanitization, or employment generating programs. But USAID is prompted by the American agenda in this country. It is dependent on your government’s priorities in this country or region. It is your State Department’s call.”(7)

But the U.S. State Department appears unconcerned about opposition from the people, nor USAID-supported violations, such as financial support to programs that rely on quotas, and other methods of coercion.

In 1996, PRI first exposed USAID support of coercive population control in the Philippines. The aid agency’s own website, entitled Mission in the Philippines, made it clear that grants to local government units were conditioned on meeting certain set targets and quotas. As soon as we published our report, this portion of the website disappeared from the Internet. But the practice of tying loans or grants to population control targets continued, in the name of meeting a largely illusory “unmet need for family planning services.”(8)

Sister Pilar Verzosa, the head of Pro-Life Philippines, has recently written in the PRI Review that “with the enactment of the Local Government Code (Republic Act 7160), population programs have been decentralized... to the thousands of local government units at the level of the province.”(9)
These local units, she explains, contract loans from foreign funding agencies, but must implement “population control programs as part of the conditions of the loan.”(10) There are reportedly 75 such “money for [no] babies” contracts in existence at the present time.

Throughout the 1990’s, USAID’s Mission worked closely with the Philippine Department of Health to “accelerate” family planning programs, particularly in rural regions.(11) “Benchmarks” and quotas for family planning “acceptors” were established, and USAID funds were disbursed when local governments fulfilled these quotas.(12)

Lourdes Yparraguirre, the Philippine’s economic minister at Philippine Embassy in Washington, recently confirmed how unwelcome USAID’s population control programs are in the Philippines. “The religious traditions of the people of the Philippines do not figure at all into discussions with USAID on family planning.” Separation of Church and State provisions in the Philippine law enables USAID and government officials to advance USAID’s population control agenda, despite the beliefs, traditions and desires of the people, she admits.(13)

>From 1970 through the 90s, with USAID’s emphasis fixated on population
control, millions of Filipinos died from preventable diseases. Poverty and unmet need for basic health care in the Philippines persists today. In 2002, according to the UN Population Division, the Philippines had 400,000 deaths, many from preventable diseases.(14) Of these, 140,000 or so are
children.(15) According to the United Nations, 29 infant deaths/1000 births, and 35 under age five deaths/1000 births occur in the Philippines each year.(16) “Family planning” is not the great unmet need in the Philippines. Health care is.

USAID’s financial support for Manila’s population program helped to drive down the fertility rate in the Philippines over the last three decades.
The number of children born to women has been cut in half, from 6 to just above 3, pulling the net fertility rates in the Philippines closer to
replacement.(17)

Americans should insist that USAID stop “shifting” around in the Philippines, and truly “graduate” that country from family planning/population programs. Putting the money into primary health care would save lives.

Endnotes

1. Manila Bulletin, “US Announces shift in program of aid to Philippine
family planning program,” Sept. 28, 2002.
2. Agence France Press (AFP), “US to End Supply of Free Contraceptives to
Philippines in 2004,” Manila, September 24, 2002.
3. Ibid.
4. Antonio de los Reyes, PRI Review, “Coercive Population Ploys in the
Philippines,” March–April, 2002, 5.
5. Ibid.
6. Philippine POPCOM, “Government to continue population program despite
opposition,” Press Release, August 22, 2002.
7. PRI Interview with Fenny C. Tatad, president of Women of Asia for
Development and Enterprise, November 14, 2002.
8. David Morrison, PRI Review, “USAID Philippine Mission: letting it all
hang out,” November–December 1996.
9. Sr. Mary Pilar Verzosa, RGS, PRI Review, “The Philippines: A Report
from the Frontlines,” November–December 2001, 3.
10. Ibid.
11. Morrison.
12. Ibid.
13. PRI interview with Lourdes Yparraguirre, economic minister, Philippine
Embassy, Washington, D.C., November 12, 2002.
14. UNPD, World Population Prospects, 2000 Revision, Philippines, 370–371.
15. World Bank, “Philippines Data Profile,”
http://devdata.worldbank.org/external/CPProfile.asp?CCODE=PHL&PTYPE=CP
16. UNPD.
17. Ibid.

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Shameful

It's ironic that we are doing this in the Philippines--it's like de-javu all over again.

Thi is reproductive imperialism! History will not judge us kindly.

Comment

Rudyard Kipling would be proud. Contraception and limiting the births of brown people seems to be this centuries self-imposed "white man's burden."

prayers!

We are praying for the Philippines! 

The physician studies the pattern on the paper to see

The physician studies the pattern on the paper to see if the heart rhythm is normal

Comment

I completely agree! If only we Filippinos had more real health care....less reproductive imperialism....we would be doing much better.

coercion and democracy?

This coercion in "reproductive health" often goes unnoticed. Thank you for calling it out! If such tactics were used in elections, people would have no trouble in calling foul and diagnosing the actions as coercion.