March 31, 2011
By JAMES HOOKWAY
ALABANG, Philippines-Buying a packet of condoms in a drugstore in this posh Manila suburb isn’t as straightforward as it might appear.
“Do you have a prescription for that, sir?” the sales clerk at Mercury Drug asked a visitor recently as retirees waited in line for diabetes pills and other medication.
Demonstrators in Manila rally in support of a new reproductive health bill that would expand the availability of condoms and other forms of contraception.
Welcome to the latest battleground in the Philippines’ culture wars: a row over whether this conservative, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country should introduce a family-planning program.
The local council here in Alabang, one of the Philippines’ wealthiest areas, where houses regularly fetch $1 million or more, is taking a stand against a growing clamor for family planning among many Filipinos, especially the poor. District officials in January enacted an ordinance which, among other things, requires people seeking condoms or other contraceptives to get a prescription.
“It was a way to stir a bit more debate,” says Luis Sison, the Alabang council’s spokesman.
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