FAMILY planning advocates on Sunday chided the Senate, for removing the P1-billion budget for free condoms, IUDs and birth control pills for distribution by the Department of Health this year.
Former Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development said Congress reneged on its obligation to adequately fund the speedy and full implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law (R.A. No. 10354) after Senator Vicente Sotto III caused the deletion of P1 billion of the P1.157 billion for the procurement of “modern and natural family planning supplies.”
Lagman, the principal author of the RH Law, underscored that the remaining P157 million is not nearly enough for the purchase of family planning commodities.
“This reverses the progress we have achieved so far in promoting reproductive health and ensuring that couples, especially women, are given better choices in planning their families to give their children a better future,” Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD executive director, said.
“The P1 billion, which was meanly cut by Sotto, is a drop in the bucket in the P3-trillion 2016 national budget and it is a minuscule amount compared to government mega projects which have fewer number of beneficiaries,” Lagman said.
Lagman said the original funding of P1.157 billion, which was emasculated by Sotto, was recommended by President Benigno Aquino III in his National Expenditure Program and adopted en toto by the House of Representatives in its version of the 2016 appropriations bill.
Lagman said that Sotto, after failing to block the passage of the RH Law, is now deliberately stalling its implementation.
The Supreme Court declared on April 8, 2014 the RH Law constitutional on the whole after the bill was approved by Congress on Dec. 19, 2012 and signed into law by President Aquino on Dec. 21, 2012.
Section 2 of the law mandates the state to guarantee universal access to legitimate and quality reproductive health care services, devices and supplies with priority to the poor.
Section 9 provides for the inclusion in the Philippine National Drug Formulary of non-abortifacient, legal and medically safe hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectables and other family planning products and supplies.
The PNDF system is the basis for the purchase by all national hospitals as well as for the procurement and distribution by the Department of Health of such family planning supplies.
Both Sections 2 and 9, among other provisions of the RH Law, are clear directives for the Congress to appropriate the requisite funds for the law’s effective implementation.
Due to the lack of funding in the 2016 General Appropriations Act, Lagman said that the government’s purchases of family planning commodities must be sourced by the DoH from its share in the incremental revenues from sin taxes or from the President’s Contingent Fund, in addition to the donations from foreign agencies.
The PLCPD decried the defunding of the reproductive health program that will deny poor Filipino couples access to medically safe, non-abortifacient and effective reproductive health care services and commodities.
“The Senate removed from the 2016 national budget the P1-billion fund earmarked by the Department of Health to provide free condoms, IUDs and birth control pills,” Dongeto said.
“This is unacceptable, especially now that we have a national law specifically mandating the provision of family planning services. It deeply saddens us that the same institution that crafted the RH Law agreed to defund its implementation,” Dongeto added.
He said the RH Law was enacted in 2012 after more than 10 years in the legislative mill. It became effective in 2014 after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.
Citing official figures from the Commission on Population, Dongeto said the contraceptive prevalence rate for modern family planning has steadily increased in recent years, from 39 percent in 2012 to 46 percent in 2014.
“Despite this, seven million Filipino women still have unmet needs in family planning services according to the DoH,” Dongeto said.
The rise in use of modern family planning methods has contributed to a decrease in maternal mortality ratio, or the number of deaths per 100,000 live births, from 129 in 2013 to 114 in 2015 based on United Nations estimates, he said.
This, he said, however, falls short of our Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal deaths to 52 per 100,000 live births.
“Without sufficient funding for family planning, we will not be able to achieve our goals to improve maternal health, especially of poor and young mothers,” Dongeto said.
Dongeto added that denying couples better reproductive health choices hurts their health, as well as their capacity to provide their children adequate food, health care and education, with far-reaching implications on country’s workforce productivity and national economy.
He urged the DoH to aggressively pursue other sources of funds to sustain the provision of reproductive health services and supplies.
“We cannot stand idle knowing women and families are denied their rights. We have to defend their right to better reproductive health and a brighter future,” Dongeto said.