The New York-Based Human Rights Watch (HRW) called historic the passage of reproductive health bill in both houses of Philippine Congress and said it is a victory for the Filipino women.

“Today’s passage of the Reproductive Health Bill is a victory for Filipino women, who have waited long enough for this day to happen,” said Carlos Conde, Asia researcher for HRW.

The House of Representative voted 133-99 with 7 abstentions to pass its version of the bill in the third and final reading early evening Monday.

Few minutes later, the Philippine Senate also voted 13-8 in favor of the ground-breaking reproductive health measure.

Both versions of the bill will be consolidated in a bicameral conference committee before it is again submitted for ratification.

In Malacañang, President Benigno Aquino III said he hopes to sign the bill into law before Christmas break.

He earlier certified the bill as urgent paving the way for a quick vote in the Senate after the House of Representative voted 113-104 during the second reading last week.

“The Reproductive Health Bill will have profound implications for improving the health and lives of women throughout the country,” said Conde when the bill was passed in the second reading.

After more than a decade of debate, the measure was finally passed Monday despite strong opposition from the powerful Catholic Church which said the proposed law will legalize abortion.

Abortion is illegal in the Philippines.

The Episcopal Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference in the Philippines accused Malacañang (presidential palace) of intervention which stymied the no votes of some legislators.

According to HRW, “contraception use in the Philippines is low because of erratic implementation of reproductive and population programs over the decades.”

The human rights group also said that “only 21 percent of women in the Philippines use any modern method of contraception while nearly 70 percent use no contraception at all.”

“According to the United Nations Population Fund, 3.4 million pregnancies occur in the Philippines every year.

“Half of those pregnancies are unintended while a third is aborted, often in clandestine, unsafe, and unsanitary procedures by nonprofessionals,” an HRW statement released last week added.

The Philippines has one of the highest population growths in the Asia with a population of more than 95 million.