DOH has P537M for condoms, contraceptivesBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—While lawmakers continue to debate whether to pass the reproductive health bill, the Department of Health (DOH) has been granted P537 million for the purchase of condoms and other contraceptives in its budget for next year.
The allocation is part of the department’s P56.8-billion budget for 2013, which hurdled plenary deliberations at the House of Representatives Friday afternoon.
But Health Secretary Enrique Ona claimed that the P537-million budget would not be limited to contraceptives, but would include “advocacy” projects as part of the overall program for “family health.”
“We will have to make do with it,” he told reporters at the sidelines of the budget deliberations. “I’d like to have more of it of course.”
“We are hoping and we are expecting a sizeable amount that will allow us to fast-track all these programs,” he added, referring to the DOH’s universal health care program that it hopes to implement by 2016.
If the RH bill is passed, he said the DOH would need more than P1 billion to implement programs contained in the measure. The RH bill price tag was earlier pegged at P13 billion, but Ona alleged that the amount was a “miscalculation.”
Ona sought to downplay the discussion on contraceptive use—a central topic in the RH debate—by saying that condom use in the country was only at around 6 percent. He said only around 15 percent of Filipino women were taking pills.
Ona said the more preferred forms of contraception were tubal ligation and intrauterine devices.
“It seems that we’re always focusing on condoms when actually, condom, to me, is very important in the control of HIV/AIDS, maybe more important that (its contraceptive use),” the secretary said.
Ona sounded the alarm on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS cases in the country, particularly among what he called the “target population” of male homosexuals. He said 80 percent of diagnosed cases today showed that the virus was transmitted among men having sex with men.
“We have discussed this with what I call the targeted population,” he said. “It’s a very delicate matter because we are here concerned about, not only privacy, but also confidentiality.”