Calamity measures won’t derail RH bill–BelmonteBy Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Pending bills that will mitigate the effects of natural disasters will not delay the period of amendments for the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said on Sunday.
Belmonte said the plenary can begin hearing the proposed amendments to the RH bill since the calamity-related measures may still be in the committees, meaning they have yet to reach the floor for debates.
“So the plenary can tackle the RH amendments,” Belmonte said in a text message.
The House is moving on to the period of committee and individual amendments for the reproductive health bill after voting last week to finally end the contentious debates on the measure.
But since the voting, sessions have yet to resume due to the torrential rains that prompted the cancellation of work in government and private offices last week.
Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez, an opponent of the RH bill, earlier said he would oppose any move to begin the period of amendments, and called on his colleagues to focus on the national budget and a supplemental calamity fund.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the authors of the RH bill, on the other hand, said that rushing the calamity-related bills was laudable, but the RH measure was also urgent because the huge population growth rate made risk management a harder task.
Meanwhile, Senior Deputy Majority Leader and Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin said Sunday that proponents and opponents of the reproductive health bill had asked for time to formalize their proposed amendments.
“Some of the lawmakers asked for time to put their proposals in writing and they were given it, so that the proposals would be easier to collate,” Garin said over the phone.
She said House leaders would discuss today when to start the actual period of amendments for the bill.
Belmonte, in an earlier interview, said the period of amendments for the bill could be as difficult as the period of debates. But he hoped the measure would move forward and reach its conclusion.
He had lauded the vote to end the debates since this finally moved the RH bill a step forward.
The RH bill seeks to provide for universal access to and information on natural and artificial family planning methods, and advocates informed choices for parents. It also provides for sex education in schools, mobile health clinics, barangay health workers and emergency obstetric care, among other things.
Supporters of the measure say it is meant to curb maternal and child mortality and prevent unwanted pregnancies. The measure is in line with the country’s international commitments.
Opponents of the measure, led by the Catholic Church, are against the use of artificial contraceptives and oppose sex education in schools.