ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Aquino stands up to Church
"I believe the couple will be in the best position to determine what is best for the family, how to space [the births], what methods they can rely on and so forth," he told a "town-hall" style meeting that he held with expatriate Filipinos.
"They [Filipino couples] face the responsibility for the children that they bring in and the government is willing to assist them," Mr. Aquino said.
The President, a 50-year-old bachelor and a practicing Roman Catholic, was responding to questions about how he planned to curb population growth in the face of opposition from the politically powerful Catholic Church in the Philippines.
The Church wields considerable influence in the Philippines, where more than 80 percent of the population are Catholics, and used its clout in the past to attack officials who champion artificial methods of birth control.
With its allies largely from civil society, it has also successfully blocked passage of a proposed law, first introduced in 2008, that would require the state to provide its citizens with "natural and modern family-planning" means.
But a survey conducted by a research group in January this year found that as many as 68 percent of voters believed that the government should provide couples with all legal means of family planning.
A month later, then-Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral incurred the wrath of the Roman Catholic Church when the department handed out free condoms in Manila on Valentine's Day.
Three bishops demanded that Cabral be fired but she remained in her post until a change of administration that saw then Senator Aquino succeed Gloria Arroyo as the nation's highest leader.
The Philippines estimates its 2010 population at 94.01 million, up from 76.5 million in the 2000 census and making it the 12th most populous nation in the world.
A party-list lawmaker agreed with the President that all Filipinos, particularly women, deserve to be told about their choices where birth control is concerned.
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