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THE Commission on Population and Development (Popcom) will recommend the reduction in tariffs for modern contraceptives as the peso continues to depreciate against the dollar.

Popcom Executive Director and Undersecretary Juan Antonio A. Perez III told the BusinessMirror that all of the country’s modern contraceptives are sourced from other countries.

Perez said the depreciation of the peso could make contraceptives more expensive for the Philippines. This, he feared, would lead to “under-procurement” of these products, which could undermine programs to prevent unintended, as well as teenage, pregnancies.

“All of the modern artificial contraceptives are sourced from outside the country and the peso-dollar exchange rate, coupled with inflation, could lead to under-procurement relative to the needs of the program and resulting in more unintended and/or unplanned pregnancies,” Perez told the BusinessMirror.

He added officials of PopComm, the National Economic and Development Authority and the Tariff Commission would sit down and discuss “the possibility of expanding the current program to reduce tariffs on contraceptives in the interest of the FP [family planning] users in the country.”

Based on the “Harmonized Tariff Nomenclature 2017” of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), chemical contraceptive preparations—which include contraceptive pills—and sheath contraceptives—which includes condoms—are slapped with a 3-percent tariff.

However, under the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement, these contraceptive products have zero tariffs. This means, no duty is charged when importing these products.

Duties, VAT

DATA from the Bureau of Customs last May showed the dutiable value of these imports reached $1.494 million. Using a foreign exchange rate of around P52 to the dollar, based on BOC computations, these shipments were equivalent to P78.148 million.

The total duties and value-added tax paid to import these contraceptives amounted to P9.665 million. All these shipments were not charged any duties under the Asean-India Free Trade Area, Asean-China Free Trade Area and the Asean Free Trade Area.

However, two shipments involving Marvelon pills and Mirena IUDs (intrauterine devices) were charged tariffs worth P234,003.75. Total VAT paid for all shipments, including pills and IUDs, reached P9.431 million.

Based on the “Annual Report on the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012” released last year, the decrease in contraceptive use of about 1 and 3 percentage points could lead to an additional 47,000 to 359,000 unintended pregnancies in 2021 to the 2.1 million baseline of unintended pregnancies in 2020.

This will also lead to 11,000 to 84,000 unsafe abortions to the baseline of 496,000 unsafe abortions as well as 30 to 200 additional maternal deaths to the baseline of 2,300 maternal mortalities.

Baby boom

CITING a study conducted by the University of the Philippines Population Institute and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Popcom said projections showed that around 600,000 Filipino women would not have access to contraceptives available in public health clinics and hospitals as a result of lockdowns.

“This situation may lead to a baby boom where nearly 2 million newborns are expected to be born in 2021 as a result of the additional 250,000 babies caused by movement restrictions from all over the country,” the report stated.

The UNFPA’s “2022 State of the World Population report,” more than half (51 percent) of pregnancies in the Philippines are unintended.

The Philippines ranked 56th among 150 countries in terms of the annual number of unintended pregnancies at 71 per 1,000 women.

However, Perez said that during the lockdown period, the country was able to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. This was mainly due to the reduction in the number of births.

Perez estimated that the country was able to avert 200,000 unintended pregnancies from happening. He attributed this to the efforts of local government units, especially health workers who were willing to provide services amid the lockdowns.