Seven European parliamentarians from various European countries and the European parliament visited the Philippines for a week-long study tour to learn about the country’s reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent or RMNCA health on August 5-10. The study tour was organized by the European Parliamentary Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Rights (EPF) and hosted by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD).
The week-long study visit included exchanges with Senator Risa Hontiveros and Senator Pia Cayetano on legislative efforts in the area of maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and women’s rights and gender equality, among others.
The study visit also featured dialogues with national government agencies, civil society organizations, young people, and development partners, in which serious concerns such as adolescent reproductive health, particularly adolescent pregnancies, and the prevalence of unsafe abortions were emphasized.
In a meeting with the United Nations Population Fund in the Philippines hosted by Mr. Iori Kato, the parliamentarians learned about the country’s priorities and relationship with development partners in the pursuit of SRHR vis-à-vis its current development efforts and talked about priorities of European countries the European parliament in terms of aid for SRHR.
In an interaction with an urban community in Navotas City hosted by Zone One Tondo Organization (ZOTO), the parliamentarians had a heart-to-heart conversation with young people on matters that concern them, particularly on specific issues such as access to healthcare and education and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The group also visited one of the clinics of Family Planning Organization of the Philippines and learned about the services offered by the clinic to community women and young people.
The study visit culminated in a two-day issue orientation with national lawmakers and local policymakers from Benguet, Albay, Palawan, Eastern Samar, Cotabato, and provinces and municipalities in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a discussion with experts on the recently enacted health-related laws including the Universal Health Care Law; how these laws impact the country’s efforts to achieve and commitment to SDG 3 (ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages), the Philippine Development Plan, and the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action; and the crucial role of local government units in ensuring that these laws truly benefit the Filipino people. In a special session during the issue orientation, PLCPD chair emeritus and Albay 1st District representative Edcel Lagman talked about the policy direction for women and children’s health and rights in the 18th Congress.
All of the discussions during the week-long study visit highlighted the importance of human rights and gender equality as lens for policymaking and implementation and the urgency of addressing RH concerns of Filipino youth and children, especially in access to healthcare and education.
The European delegation was composed of Mr. Norbert Neuser, member of the European Parliament; Ms. Aurora Madaula, member of the Parliament of Catalonia; Mr. Frank Heinrich, member of the German Bundestag; Mr. George Dallemagne, member of the Federal Parliament of Belgium; Ms. Saara Hyrkkö, member of the Parliament of Finland; Ms. Sandra Pereira, member of the Parliament of Portugal; and Ms. Silje Hjemdal, member of the Parliament of Norway.
PLCPD and EPF organized similar study visits for European parliamentarians in 2012 and in 2016.
*Photos courtesy of EPF and PLCPD.