Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago strongly denounced the recent revelation that the P1 billion proposed by the Department of Health (DOH) for the procurement of contraceptives has been scrapped from the 2016 national budget. The defunding happened despite the mandate of Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law, which was enacted in 2012 and affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2014.
“When I am president, I shall work to fully and conscientiously implement the Reproductive Health Law. I am therefore appalled at the cut on reproductive health allocations in the 2016 budget,” Santiago said. A three-term senator, Santiago is one of the five candidates running for president for the May 2016 elections.
“It is irreconcilable that Congress, which enacted the RH Law after much hardship in 2012, would three years later render that same law inutile,” Santiago added, emphasizing that the P1-billion budget cut “threatens to deprive some seven million women of reproductive health services.” She, along with Senator Pia Cayetano, is the principal sponsors of the Senate version of the RH Law.
“This abandonment is immoral in a country where some 200 out of 100,000 women who give birth die. The enemies of reproductive health never sleep. We, too, must not rest in fighting for women’s health,” she concluded.
The huge budget cut is being blamed on Senators Loren Legarda and Vicente Sotto III. Legarda, the chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, claimed that the amount of P1 billion could be better spent for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Curiously, Legarda were among those who voted for the passage of the RH law while Sotto were among its fiercest opponents.
Speaking to Agence France-Presse, Health Secretary Janette Garin bemoaned that the budget cut will hamper the government’s efforts to promote RH services. “This will have a huge effect since a lot of mothers depend on what the Department of Health provides,” she said, adding that her agency may have to seek private donors to continue financing the service.
For its part, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) warned that removing the funds meant for RH law implementation would render it useless. “The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law has solidified the foundation of reproductive health and rights in the Philippines, but without funding for contraceptives, an essential element of any family planning program, the law will be ineffective,” UNFPA Country Representative Klaus Beck said.