The United Nations warned that failure to pass a controversial birth control law in the Philippines could reverse gains in development goals amid stiff opposition from the powerful Catholic Church.
The bill seeks to make it mandatory for the government to provide free contraceptives in a country where more than 80 percent of the population is Catholic and which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Southeast Asia.
Ugochi Daniels, country representative from the UN Population Fund, said yesterday that she remained "cautiously optimistic" that President Benigno Aquino's allies who dominate the House of Representatives could muster the numbers to pass the bill tomorrow after 14 years of often divisive debate.
"What is important now is to highlight the urgency of the bill," Daniels said.
The UN, in a separate statement, said the Philippines was unlikely to achieve its millennium development goal of reducing maternal deaths by three quarters and providing universal access to reproductive health by 2015.
The body said it had "extensively studied" the proposed law which once passed could "vastly improve health and quality of life" in a country where a third of the population live on less than a dollar a day.
A rise in unwanted pregnancies could swell the number of people in poverty, and lead to an explosion in urban slum populations, the UN said.
And while the country has been enjoying economic expansion of more than five percent in recent years, the gains could be reversed, it warned.
"Hopes of future prosperity could turn to dust if the country is not able to deal with the population growth," the UN said.