MANILA, Philippines—Health Secretary Enrique Ona went to bat for the passage of the reproductive health (RH) bill as congressmen scrutinized on Monday his department’s P56.8-billion budget for 2013.
Ona said he still believed there was a need for the RH bill despite provisions in the Department of Health’s (DOH) 2013 budget that would allow it to set up health and birthing centers and hire health workers.
He said this was because the measure would ensure that the people, especially the poor, would get the proper information on how to plan their families and space their children, and would receive the means necessary to do this.
Without the bill, Ona said, such services to the poor would be subject to the whims of local government officials.
Ona made the statements as Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay grilled him on the need for a reproductive health bill.
Magsaysay noted that the existing Magna Carta of Women already gave women the right to pre- and postnatal care and access to family planning methods, and also the right to space their children.
She said the DOH’s doctors to the barrio program also addressed the need for pre- and postnatal care, while the program for health facilities enhancement addressed the need for birthing facilities.
The DOH’s deployment of health workers to the barangays would also provide for the dissemination of family planning information, she said.
But Ona stressed that this was not enough, and that there must be a reproductive health bill for there to be a national policy and uniform implementation of the measure.
“It’s not enough because it all depends very much on what a local health executive or mayor or congressman of the community will decide,” he said.
Magsaysay retorted that all that was needed was to get the local executives to implement the Magna Carta of Women and that if they didn’t then the DOH would be remiss in its duty.
Ona replied that local governments were autonomous in nature, hence, his desire for a law.
“We want to make sure that the policy is not only implemented but done nationwide … rather than depend on the whims of a particular local official,” he said.