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
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
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.
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.
4. Antonio de los Reyes, PRI Review, “Coercive Population Ploys in the Philippines,” March–April, 2002, 5.
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.
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”