P1B for free contraceptives of poor couples removed from 2016 budget – DOH
MANILA, Philippines — Poor Filipino couples in need of artificial contraceptives will not be getting any in health centers this year after the Senate allegedly struck off the P1 billion budget allotted for family planning commodities for 2016, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
Health Secretary Janette Garin said the DOH originally earmarked P1 billion out of its proposed budget of P124 billion for this year to cover the free provision of condoms, IUDs, birth control pills particularly for breastfeeding mothers, in health centers.
“Congress approved the budget but unfortunately we were informed that during the bicameral conference, the budget for contraceptives was removed,” disclosed Garin at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum on Wednesday.
The budget cut came as a surprise even as the three-year-old reproductive health law gave beneficiaries determined by the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction universal access to medically safe, non-abortifacient and effective quality reproductive health care services, methods and supplies.
Without proper funding, the health agency will also continue to grapple with the challenge of providing for 6.7 percent of the country’s population with “unmet” family planning services. This translates to roughly seven million Filipino women, according to Garin.
“We don’t have any idea why the funds for contraceptives were suddenly deleted,” said Garin in an interview later with reporters.
She said the budget cut would have a major impact on poor and young mothers highly dependent on the government’s free provision of artificial contraceptives.
“Many young parents avail of contraceptives from our health centers because they want to be able to finish school even as they take care of their children,” said Garin.
She disclosed that the supply of contraceptives procured from the 2015 budget was only good up to March this year.
To be able to sustain its health program for the rest of the year, the DOH would now need to be aggressive in tapping international partners like the United Nations Population Fund and the US Agency for International Development, said the health chief.
“Maybe we can look for donors to allow the DOH to move on with this program for this year but we really hope that both Congress and the Senate will allow it for the 2017 budget,” said Garin, who co-authored the RH law when she was still in Congress.
Garin stressed the need to provide young and poor couples with family planning services to allow them to make better choices and to give their children a better future. She took note of the Philippines’ very young population, wherein women as young as 14 years old are getting pregnant.
Many of these women are pushed to commit abortion or abandon their children because of poverty while others strive to keep their children alive but are not able to give them education, she added.
“Why will we allow these couples to suffer when they also want help?” asked Garin. “We are not saying that family planning should be given to all. What we are saying is that it should be given to those who need it and to those who cannot afford it,” she said.
The deletion of the budget for contraceptives will also have a negative impact on key populations vulnerable to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), in which condom-use has been at a dismal 44 percent, according to Garin.
Earlier, the DOH declared that it was seeking to double the budget allocation for its campaign to curb the rising incidence of HIV in the country to P600 million, of which P10 million had been allotted for condoms and lubricants, which would be distributed mostly in HIV “hotspots.”
The prevalence of HIV is currently above five percent in eight cities in the country, which the DOH earlier identified as Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Puerto Princesa, Davao, Quezon City, Parañaque and Makati. In Cebu, HIV prevalence is now at 14 percent. SFM
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