by Rey Salita
Senator Vicente Sotto III says there is no need for the reproductive health bill since it merely duplicates the programs and goals of the Health department.
The Senate’s majority floor leader Sotto said for instance that the Health department’s 2012 proposed budget has a P7.7 billion allocation for contraceptives and community-based population control programs. These are the same features found in the reproductive health bill, Sotto said on Thursday during a budget deliberation.
“I honestly find no reason why the RH bill has to be enacted into law when all its components are existing programs already implemented by the health department.” Sotto said.
Sotto took note of a substantial increase in the budget for family health and responsible parenting—the centerpiece of the proposed RH bill. The budget was increased to P2.5 billion from P4.2 billion.
He said there was also a P197 million allocation for local government units covering purchase of condoms, intrauterine device, pills and injectibles.
Finance committee chairman Franklin Drilon, who was sponsoring the administration’s P42.69 total budget public health budget, said the budget was allocated for contraceptives. LGUs have the discretion to decide which brand or kind of contraceptives to purchase and distribute to their constituents, Drilon said.
Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile, a staunch oppositor of the RH bill, stressed that there were many expenditure items in the DoH budget that were misleading but were basically family planning contraceptives.
“In the RH bill, these supplies were defined. I cannot remember the adjectives they have used. There is a broad definition of what they call these family planning supplies. But in the RH bill, they call it essential medicines.” Enrile said.
Senator Edgardo Angara also pointed out a P5 billion allocation in the DoH budget for basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric and new born care which calls for enhanced post-natal health facilities.
“This is really shady and I suspect that these are abortion facilities,” Angara said.
But Drilon clarified the government program was targeted at 5.2 million households earning less that P6,000 per month where most unplanned pregnancies occur.
“No, these are not abortion clinics. These are for additional facilities for district and rural hospitals for to effect improvement for maternal health. Birthing homes in far-flung areas will be added,” Drilon said.