MANILA—Senator Loren Legarda, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, defended on Friday the PhP1-billion cut in the Reproductive Health (RH) allocations in the PhP3.002-trillion national budget for 2016.
“The cut of PhP1 billion for the Department of Health’s (DOH) family health and responsible parenting (FHRP) was a source for the increases in other agencies, including for the Department of National Defense’s (DND) air assets upgrading, which is timely and equally important given the West Philippine Sea issue,” Legarda said in a press statement.
Legarda said part of the slashed budget for reproductive health services was also used for the increase in the state universities and colleges (SUCs) budget.
She said a portion of the PhP1 billion was also realigned within DOH to provide for the health facilities and medical assistance to indigent patients.
”The decision to cut the allocation for FHRP was done after assessing its possible impact on the program,” she explained.
Legarda further explained that as of June 2015, the DOH status of funds showed that of the PhP3.27 billion allocation, only 29 percent or PhP955 million has been obligated.
”For the remaining six months, PhP2.3 billion or 71% has yet to be obligated. The unused 2015 budget is still available in 2016 and the agencies may augment deficient items from their savings,” Legarda said.
Senators Pia Cayetano and Miriam Defensor Santiago, co-authors of the RH when it was tackled in the Senate, questioned the PhP1 billion cut in the RH services budget.
”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. 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 said in a press statement.
”The PhP1-billion budget cut threatens to deprive some seven million women of reproductive health services. This abandonment is immoral in a country where some 200 out of 100,000 women who give birth die,” she added.
Cayetano called the cut as “unacceptable,” saying she was not provided with the detailed amendments of the budget which the Senate passed before the Christmas break last month.
“As the principal sponsor of the RH law, I am shocked that the RH budget was slashed by PhP1 billion. At every stage of the 2016 budget process, I had asked for details. This was work in progress and the detailed amendments were not readily available. Thus, we work on a basis of trust – that the Chair of the Finance Committee would not make significant changes without informing the body, or in the case of RH, no major changes will be made without informing me, knowing that I sponsored the measure,” Cayetano said. (PNA)