Manila - Seven in 10 Philippinos support a reproductive health bill permitting education on contraception which would also help check population growth, despite opposition from the powerful Roman Catholic Church, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The Church, a major social and political force in the poor Southeast Asian nation of about 95 million, has blocked similar bills since the 1990s and earlier this year denounced President Benigno Aquino's support for contraception. [ID:nSGE690057]

The bill is in the early stages of consideration by Congress, and proponents are confident it can be enacted into law given it has the backing of Aquino, who says slowing population growth will help fight poverty.

Father Melvin Castro of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said the bill was “an attack to the sanctity of life and indirectly promotes abortion”. The Church backs “natural” contraception while opposing “artificial” methods, including condoms, pills and other means.

Ana Maria Tabunda of Pulse Asia, the group which conducted the survey, told Reuters the Church's attack on Aquino over education had raised awareness of and support for the bill.

The survey of 1,200 people, conducted in late October, found 80 percent of respondents aware of the bill in Congress, and 69 percent supported the bill to educate people about family planning methods.

Only 7 percent of respondents opposed the bill, while 24 percent were undecided, Pulse Asia said.

The main objection of the bill's opponents was sex education in schools. A majority of those opposed still backed the use of state funds to promote artificial contraception.

In a survey in 2008, 68 percent were aware of a reproductive health bill and 63 percent supported it, Tabunda said.

Aquino, a Catholic like four out of five Philippinos, said his support for the bill had nothing to do with opinion polls.

“It's still called responsible parenthood and what it seeks to do is remind everyone of their responsibility as a parent,” he told reporters.

Abortion is illegal in the Philippines and that would not change under the proposed bill. Condoms and birth control pills are available, but the Church is opposed to offering information about and access to artificial contraception.

Despite Aquino's support, passage of the bill is uncertain. The Church has played a key role in the overthrow of two presidents in the past 25 years and politicians are careful not to offend it. - Reuters