Health chief: No allocation for contraceptives in 2016 DOH budget

MANILA, Philippines – Almost two years after the reproductive health (RH) law was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court, the controversial measure faces a new challenge: there is no allocation for contraceptives in the 2016 budget. 

Health Secretary Janette Garin said the 2016 budget for contraceptives was removed during the deliberations of the Senate and House bicameral conference committee.

"We really had it in our budget. Congress approved the proposed budget, but unfortunately, at the bicameral conference, we were informed the budget for contraceptives was removed," Garin said in a mix of English and Filipino during a media forum on Wednesday, January 6.

She told reporters that health officials only learned about the removal on Monday, January 4. 

Republic Act 10354 or the RH law mandates the Department of Health (DOH) to procure, distribute to local government units (LGUs), and monitor the usage of family planning supplies for the whole country.

The 2016 budget for contraceptives supposedly amounts to around P1 billion ($21.24 million). The allocation is meant to purchase family planning commodities such as condoms, pills, and IUDs.

But now that it's no longer in the 2016 budget, Garin said the DOH plans to seek help from its health partners and donors so that the program can continue. 

"It will affect our program a lot. Malaki ang epekto niya kasi ang daming nanay na dependent dun sa binibigay ng DOH (This has a huge effect since a lot of mothers depend on the supplies provided by the DOH)," Garin told reporters after the forum.

LGUs can also implement their own procurement, distribution, and monitoring program consistent with the provisions of the law and DOH guidelines. 

"We're not saying that family planning should be given to all. What we're saying is it should be given to those who need it and who cannot afford it," Garin said.

The health secretary urged both houses of Congress to "allow it for the 2017 budget." The DOH has a total budget of P122.63 billion ($2.61 billion) for 2016. 

Garin also urged Filipino voters to ask candidates running in the 2016 elections about the RH law. (READ: 5 #GenderIssues to ask in 2016)

"There should be political will to implement reproductive health. Puwedeng tanungin iyan (They can ask candidates that)," she said.

As it is, the department is still coping with the temporary restraining order issued by the SC on the distribution and sale of implants in June 2015. Garin said implants, if not provided for free by government, will cost around P8,000 ($169.98) to P12,000 ($254.96) in the private sector. Rappler.com

US$1 = P47.07

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.

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