INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION FOR WOMEN’S HEALTH (IDAWH)
By Senator PIA S. CAYETANO
Chair, Senate Committee on Youth, Women & Family Relations
30 May 2012
Mr. President, I rise on a matter of personal and collective privilege in connection with the celebration of the International Day of Action for Women’s Health (IDAWH) last Monday, May 28. The IDAWH is celebrated every 28th of May to highlight the unique health needs of women and emphasize their vital contributions in all areas of society. This year’s theme is “Pag-aaruga sa Kababaihan, Tungo sa Malusog na Kinabukasan”.
All of us have mothers, sisters, and wives, who play an important role in our lives and, in one way or another, have molded us into the persons we are now. I would imagine we would give anything for our mothers, sisters and wives, strive to provide them with all their health needs and give them the best in life. However, not all women are as fortunate.
On Maternal Deaths
In the Philippines alone, eleven (11) mothers die daily due to maternal causes. I have said this before and I will say this again, these deaths are unnecessary and highly preventable with the provision of proper pre- and post-natal services, and other reproductive health care services.
On Teenage Pregnancies
In 2009, one in 10 mothers who gave birth in the country was a teenager. The number of teenage Filipinas giving birth each year has been increasing since 2000. Live births by teenage mothers in 2000 was at 126,025 but nine years later, the level rose to 195,662 or a 55.25 percent jump.
Worldwide, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death and disease for women in their reproductive years (between the ages of 15–44 years old). In the Philippines, most of us are not aware of the alarming rate of HIV infection. The Philippines is one of only seven (7) countries with the incidence of HIV infections that grew greater than 25%. From January 1984 to March 2012, a total of 9,163 HIV cases have been reported in the Philippines. March 2012 registered the highest number of monthly new HIV infections with 313 cases. The number of new cases has gone up from one every 3 days in 2000 to one every 3 hours by 2011.  Given the current rate of new HIV infections, the Department of Health (DOH) predicts that the number of HIV cases in the country will have more than quadrupled from 11,000 in 2008 to 45,000 in 2015 if we do nothing.
On Breast Cancer
What is also alarming is that, according to a report from the Philippine Breast Cancer Network, the Philippines has now the highest incidence rate of breast cancer in Asia and is also considered the 9th highest incidence rate in the world today. One out of four who are diagnosed with breast cancer die within the first five years and no less than 40% die within ten years. This is because breast cancer is often detected in its late stages due to low public awareness and lack of information about the disease.
On Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer, which is preventable, is the second most common cancer among Filipino women and is considered by medical experts to be deadlier. For every four Filipino women who survive cancer of the breast, only two or three will survive cancer of the cervix. Conservative estimates in the year 2000 placed the number of cervical cancer cases in the country at between 35,000 and 70,000. Almost 7,000 new cases are added to this annually, with 3,807 deaths reported every year. Almost half of the patients die within five years from diagnosis. Incidentally, Mr. President, May is also Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.
Mr. President, I have barely scratched the surface. In line with the celebration of the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, I would like to take this opportunity to bring the Chamber’s attention back to a measure which seeks to empower Filipinos, especially the women and the underprivileged, to exercise their right to health, their reproductive health.
Yes, I am referring to no other than Senate Bill No. 2865, entitled, “AN ACT PROVIDING FOR A NATIONAL POLICY ON REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT”.
Mr. President, it was 7 June 2011 when I sponsored the Reproductive Health Bill. In light of recent significant events in our country, we have obviously been busy with other matters. But now that the Impeachment Trial has come to an end, I believe it is time to bring back our attention to the need to save the lives of mothers and their children. Almost one (1) year has passed and ten (10) of our esteemed colleagues have already interpellated, yet the bill still remains in the period of interpellation.
The RH Bill has seen its fair share of Congresses come and go. It has been languishing in Congress for ten (10) years now. I can only imagine the number of mothers and children we have lost throughout these years, deaths which could have been prevented had we passed a Reproductive Health bill earlier.
Mr. President, as we near the end of another Congress, it is my fervent hope that we put an end to the unnecessary deaths of mothers and children. We should not let this opportunity pass once again. Every day of delay equates to 11 lives lost. Every day, we are not only depriving Filipinos of their right to reproductive health but we are also denying mothers of their children and children of their mothers. We all have the right to reproductive health. Let us not deprive our fellow Filipinos of this basic right. The fate of women and children are now in our hands. Mr. President, let us act now and show these helpless women and children that we truly value their lives.
 Memo of the National Epidemiology Center to Secretary Ona
Photo: Sen. Pia S. Cayetano delivers her privilege speech on the International Day of Action for Women’s Health (IDAWH), which was marked last Monday, May 28.