Supporters say the law, which took 14 years to pass, will reduce poverty and maternal mortality in a country with the highest birth rate in the region.

The Roman Catholic Church repeatedly tried to block the bill.

The country's Congress failed to pass the measure several times before giving it final approval on 19 December.

The law is due to take effect in mid-January, said presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte.

"The passage into law of the Responsible Parenthood Act closes a highly divisive chapter of our history - a chapter borne of the convictions of those who argued for, or against this act," she said.

"At the same time, it opens the possibility of co-operation and reconciliation... engagement and dialogue characterised not by animosity, but by our collective desire to better the welfare of the Filipino people."