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MANILA -- President Rodrigo R. Duterte has approved the implementation plan of a program meant to distribute contraceptives nationwide, prevent unplanned pregnancies and ultimately reduce poverty, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte, during the 35th Cabinet meeting on Monday night, approved the implementation plan for the National Program on Family Planning.

Panelo said the plan was presented by National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General Ernesto Pernia and Commission on Population and Development Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III.

“We wish to inform that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, together with members of the Cabinet, approved last night, March 4, the full and intensified Implementation Plan for the National Program on Family Planning,” Panelo said in a statement.

Panelo noted that government recognized the need to respond and help those who wish to undergo family planning since not all Filipinos have access to contraceptives due to various reasons.

The goal of the program is to reduce the country’s poverty rate and at the same time promote better health and socioeconomic development among Filipinos, Panelo said.

“The approval of the aforesaid plan is expected to reduce poverty incidence in the country, which currently has the highest fertility rate and fastest growing population in the ASEAN region, from the current 20 percent to 14 percent in 2022, the year PRRD steps down into office,” Panelo said.

Under the program, Panelo said 11.3 million women would be given access to effective modern contraceptives over the next four years and increase the usage thereof from 40 percent to 65 percent.

He said that this is expected to prevent 4 million unintended pregnancies and 2 million cases of abortion over the said period.

Duterte has repeatedly pushed for better access to birth control.

Cabinet agenda

Panelo said Duterte also approved the proposed construction of 31 evacuation centers in six provinces from Region 5 (Bicol).

Meanwhile, he said Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary John Castriciones and Undersecretary Luis Pangulayan cited the actions of the agency to streamline the land-use conversion process.

“After the issuance of an executive order, DAR will be able to process land conversion within 30 days compared to the previous 190 days,” Panelo said.

He noted that DAR was also instructed to submit a complete staff work to the Office of the Executive Secretary.

Moreover, Panelo said the Department of Finance (DOF) also discussed the top 10 recommendations of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) during the Sulong Pilipinas 2018 including prioritizing agricultural productivity, building more infrastructure, simplifying loan requirements and guarantees for MSMEs and farmers, improving access to education for the poor, providing 4Ps recipients with livelihood training, making stricter profiling of recipients, streamlining government services, and reducing red tape.

Sulong Pilipinas is an annual summit where 1,000 MSMEs are consulted about their concerns with the government. (PNA)