MANILA — Despite opposition from the powerful Roman Catholic Church, a bill that would mandate sex education in schools and subsidize contraceptives moved ahead Monday after being stalled in the Philippine Congress for 14 years.
‘’May God have mercy on our Congress,’’ said Angel N. Lagdameo, an archbishop in the central Philippines, one of a number of church leaders who condemned the measure.
The Philippine House of Representatives voted Monday to close debate and allow amendments on the bill — not final approval but an important procedural step.
The Reproductive Health Bill, as the measure is known, must also be approved by the Senate and signed by President Benigno S. Aquino III before it can become law, but Aquino backs the bill and his allies control the Senate.
The bill would direct the Department of Health to distribute ‘‘medically safe, legal, accessible, affordable, and effective reproductive health care services nationwide,’’ and requires ‘‘age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education’’ from the fifth grade through high school.
Contraceptives are legal and can be bought readily here, but unlike some other Asian nations with fast-growing populations, the Philippines has no distribution program to help the poor obtain them.