FDA oks 51 contraceptives/Digitizing land titles

FROM THE STANDS By Domini M. Torrevillas

By far the biggest news for women surpassing the holding of the 31st ASEAN Summit is the Food and Drug Administration’s declaration of 51 family planning products to be medically safe and non-abortifacient. 

FDA Resolution 2017-302, dated Nov. 10, 2017, effectively lifts the 29-month old Supreme Court TRO issued by the SC in June 2015 since FDA has declared all contraceptives, including the Progestin Subdermal Implant (PSI, Implanon), non-abortifacient. 

“After two long years, we would finally be able to implement our family planning program based on our RPRH Law,” says Ben de Leon, president of The Forum for Family Planning and Development (FORUM). “With a major barrier to our family planning program removed, we can now assure that every Filipino of reproductive age are provided with the whole range of quality family planning products and services that are effective, medically safe and non-abortifacient.” de Leon said.

 Just as pleased about the FDA decision is Dr. Juan Perez III, executive director of the Commission on Population (POPCOM). In a statement sent me, he said, “The Commission on Population appreciates the diligence of the Food and Drugs Administration in completing and approving the recertification of 51 contraceptives. This could not have come at a better time as depleted contraceptive supplies will now be augmented by over 200,000 implants. Annually one million women become new acceptors of modern family planning methods.” 

The group lauded the efforts of the national government, particularly that of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Secretary Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), for openly declaring support for the RPRH law and their continued call for its immediate implementation. 

The FDA action now means that the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) implementation team headed by former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral has its work cut out in the coming year: fill in the gaps in the short term, while DOH now moves forward with the procurement of recertified contraceptives.

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Of course there’s a lot of excitement over the holding of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits right here in our country, coinciding with the Philippines’ key role as 2017 chair of ASEAN. 

The theme is simply apt – “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World” – drawing everyone’s attention to the imperative of forging solidarity among ASEAN member-states in charting and shaping a future that would redound to the benefit and blessing of the region’s peoples. 

Among the five thematic priorities of this Summit, what stands out is the strategic direction of having a “People-Oriented and People-Centered ASEAN.” This gives top priority to the empowerment and social protection of women, the elderly and the disabled. 

From where I stand, this promises important strides in a region where the role of women in politico-socio-economic spheres must be given more importance. This is especially true in some ASEAN member-countries where women have yet to enjoy equal status with women. 

Empowering women should go beyond rhetoric or lip service. It must be contained in the ASEAN countries’ policies and pieces of legislation, so that the newfound importance of women – who typically comprise half of the population in any country – will not be left to the whim and caprice of the ruling government.

One topic where women’s right and chance for empowerment must be tackled is in the area of land governance – meaning, women should have as much right as men in owning lands, registering their pieces of real estate property in their name, and disposing of such property freely without the restrictive consent of men.

According to Philip Hirsch, professor of Human Geography at the University of Sydney, there is “very little in ASEAN documentation or institutional structures that deals with land.” He was quick to add, however, that there are a couple of exceptions. There is a study commissioned by the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) on rights of women to secure tenure of land in member countries. Second, there are environmental provisions within the ASEAN Charter under the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community that touch indirectly on land issues, for example the haze agreement and its requirements for prevention of trans-boundary impacts from land clearing. 

It would be good if the ASEAN summit here would place land governance in its agenda as guide to member countries. That’s because the delegates would be going back to their homelands “with some policy directions, civil society initiatives, partnering arrangements across borders, and knowledge sharing,” Professor Hirsch said.

 Speaking of knowledge sharing on land governance, the country’s premier land governance office – the Land Registration Authority (LRA) has recently accelerated its efforts for a nationwide launch of the Title Upgrade Program (TUP). LRA will be holding a series of roadshows with its key stakeholders – namely banks, real estate developers and government owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs).

There are 24.5 million land titles all over the country, a fraction of which are currently being converted as digitized titles. The roadshows are meant to accelerate conversion from physical paper land titles to their digitized equivalents – which will achieve security and safety of land titles.

 A significant percentage of land owners who opted for the digitized titles now feel secure with documents that certify their ownership of their lands. This is true for individuals, as this is also true for corporate land owners.

The road shows are set on Nov. 22 and 29 at the Sulo Riviera Hotel, Quezon City.

 On Nov. 27, the roadshows will be held at the Bankers’ Association of the Philippines (BAP) office. The Nov. 22 and 27 roadshows will target banks and financial institutions while the Nov. 29 roadshow will orient LRA’s partner GOCCs and real-estate developers on the advantages of switching to e-titles.

LRA Deputy Administrator Robert Nomar Leyretana told me that the Title Upgrade Program was launched “ to safeguard the security and integrity of the certificate.” It is after all the “best proof of ownership over a piece of land,” he pointed out.

The Title Upgrade is actually part of LRA’s Land Titling Computerization Project (LTCP). Storing our land titles in cyberspace will truly secure all paper documents, have them converted into digital copies and establish an electronic database parallel to the physical copy.

The good news is LRA’s title upgrade program is currently being implemented in 24 Registry of Deeds offices (RDs), namely: Dagupan City, Legaspi City, Laguna, San Carlos, Batangas, Romblon, Mindoro Occidental, Catanduanes, Quezon City, Marikina City, Iloilo, Iloilo City, Cebu, Cebu City, Cotabato City, Biliran, Gingoog City, Misamis Occidental, Maguindanao, Camiguin, Lanao del Sur, Zamboanga del Sur, and Agusan del Sur.

The process is simple. Landowners and title holders should present an annotation transaction with the Register of Deeds. Then, the manually issued titles will be automatically upgraded into an eTitle. 

Once digitized, the vault copy of the title will be free from the risk of theft, loss or damage. Unlike paper titles, eTitles are secured from natural and man-made disasters. 

LRA is now working with banks, real estate developers and GOCCs, after signing a signed a memorandum of agreement to set in motion the efficient and reliable land registration procedures.

“We hope to forge partnerships with our stakeholders so that the public will be able to find easier access in converting their manually issued titles to eTitles,” LRA Deputy Administrator Ronald Ortile pointed out.

Ortile said the eTitle will contain exactly the same information as that of the manually issued title including both the names of the Registrar who issued the manually issued title and the eTitle itself. 

A hard copy of the new owner’s duplicate and/or co-owner’s duplicate copies of the eTitle shall then be issued when conversion is completed. 

Leyretana added: “The title upgrade program is for the general public as well, since this will accelerate the process for GOCCs and real-estate developers.”

On this growing advocacy to make land governance in this country – and in other countries – favorable to our women, let our policy makers and legislators work on the details of such a policy move. 

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

 

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