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DOH may have to divert family health fund to purchase contraceptives

Jee Y. Geronimo
DOH may have to divert family health fund to purchase contraceptives
Health Secretary Janette Garin explains how the justifications for the P1-billion reproductive health budget cut by senators Legarda and Sotto don't add up


MANILA, Philippines – Senator Loren Legarda defended anew the move of the bicameral conference committee removing a P1-billion allocation for contraceptives from the 2016 budget.

In a statement Friday, January 8, Legarda said the health department’s Family Health and Responsible Parenting (FHRP) still has an allocation of P2.275 billion in the 2016 budget.

P1.67 billion of this will go to the procurement of family planning commodities, the senator added. (READ: What happened to the 2016 budget for contraceptives?)

“The allocation for commodities is lodged within the FHRP and the cut in the latter did not refer to any particular commodity,” the statement read.

But Health Secretary Janette Garin said what’s left in the budget of the FHRP will go to the Family Health Office, where many programs are lodged, including school-based immunization, immunization for senior citizens, training of midwives, and breastfeeding for babies.

The office also has programs on child health, adolescent health, as well as men’s and women’s health.

Garin said allocations for the Family Health Office is different from allocations for family planning.

Ang natanggal talaga, ‘yung family planning,” Garin told Rappler in a phone interview Friday. (What was really removed was for family planning.)

She was referring to the P1 billion meant to purchase family planning commodities, such as condoms, pills, and IUDs.

Supplies to last until March

Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance, earlier said any unused 2015 budget of the health departmet is still available in 2016, and government agencies may augment deficient items from their savings.

“As of June 2015, the DOH status of funds showed that of the P3.27-billion allocation for FHRP, only P955 million had been obligated or 29%. For the remaining 6 months, P2.3 billion or 71% has yet to be obligated,” she explained.

On Friday, she even cited historical data showing that the health department’s Office of the Secretary has savings every year:

Unused obligations or savings, Department of Health
2012 2013 2014
P5.46 billion (13.84% of total budget) P7.578 billion (16.03%) P9.2 billion (16.54%)

Source: Office of Senator Loren Legarda

But Garin said when it comes to the status of funds, Legarda cited numbers from the middle of a fiscal year. 

They were basing it on a report, as of June ‘di pa tapos. Na-consume na lahat ‘yun,” she clarified. (They were basing it on a report, but as of June the program was not yet done. We have already consumed the rest of the budget.)

She noted that the department’s family planning supplies always spill over until the first quarter of the year. This means they can still provide commodities until middle of March. (READ: Contraceptives in the Philippines: What to use, where to get)

But after that, they will already have to tap health partners and donors for the family planning program to continue for the rest of 2016.

Garin said another solution is to trace the funds supposedly for contraceptives that were realigned for the procurement of medicines and supplies for health facilities. 

The proposal is to locate the health facilities and ask them to buy the family planning commodities instead.

As for the explanation of Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III that the basis of the budget cut is the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court in June 2015, Garin said they already removed the allocation for implants in their proposed 2016 budget.

Ilang beses ipinaliwanag sa budget hearings [sa Congress] na tinanggal ‘yung pondo at idinagdag sa immunization ng senior citizen at pneumonia immunization. ‘Yung P1 billion, hindi covered ng TRO,” Garin explained.

(We explained it many times during budget hearings in Congress that we already removed the fund for implants and added it to funds for immunization of senior citizens and pneumonia immunization. The P1 billion is not covered by the TRO.)

Senators ‘informed’ of changes

Legarda also insisted on Friday that all information about the 2016 budget were made available to both houses of Congress.

On Thursday, Senator Pia Cayetano – the principal sponsor of the reproductive health law – revealed she was not informed of the “major changes” in the budget.

All senators were given a copy of the bicameral conference committee report before they voted to ratify. The first page of the report shows both the increases and the decreases in the budget of all agencies, including the Department of Health,” Legarda added.

She also pointed out that even with the removal of the P1 billion, the health department and its attached agencies will still enjoy an enacted 2016 budget that is higher by P30 million compared to the proposed amount under the National Expenditure Program.

National Expenditure Program 2016 General Appropriations Act
P125.950 billion P125.980 billion

Source: Office of Senator Loren Legarda

“A cut in the budget does not mean less support for a program. We also see the need to increase funds of other agencies for equally important programs,” Legarda explained.

“We all want our laws and programs to be funded, thus, the House and the Senate deliberate on the budget and make the necessary adjustments as we see fit. We reduce the budget of some programs to allow for the improvement of other programs. That is why we have to go through this cycle of budget deliberations every year.”

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.