Solons ask DOH to have separate funding for RH in 2024 budget
MANILA, Philippines — A day after the House of Representatives passed a bill intended to curb teen pregnancies, lawmakers learned that there was no separate or clearly designated funding for family planning and reproductive health (RH) in the proposed 2024 national budget.
This came to light during the Department of Health’s (DOH) presentation of its P311.3-billion proposed funding for next year before the House Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday.
In the 2024 National Expenditure Program (NEP), P8.3 billion was set aside for family health, immunization, nutrition and responsible parenting — higher than the P7.4 billion it got in the 2023 national budget.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, an RH advocate, pointed out that there was no separate line item for family planning and reproductive health in the budget proposal.
“This year (2023), there is a separate line item for family planning and reproductive health in the amount of P870,014,000 that is not maintained in NEP for the proposed budget of the DOH for 2024. Because it was reverted to the generic line item known as family health, immunization, nutrition, and responsible parenting,” Lagman said on Wednesday.
Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa confirmed Lagman’s observation, adding there was an allocation of P749,999,400 for family planning and reproductive health under the 2023 line item.
“But we also have allotments in the regional offices of about P607,837,000, with another P165 million also in our health promotion. We have a total of P1.5 billion allocated for family planning alone,” Herbosa said.
Back to ‘generic’ label?
Aside from modern contraception methods like pills, injectable and implant contraception, intrauterine devices, condoms and sterilization, the allocation also covers reproductive health services for health promotion and adolescent health.
To this, Lagman said: “Would you not like to have this back to the current situation where there is a separate item for family planning reproductive health, independent and separate from the generic item on family health?”
Herbosa said the DOH would submit a request to the committee for a separate line item in the 2024 national budget to fund family planning and reproductive health.
Rep. Arlene Brosas, the assistant minority leader, agreed with Lagman’s position that family planning and RH services should be funded as a separate item and not lumped together with other items.
“It is important to fund it as a separate item. Instead of funding confidential and intelligence expenses, we should fund maternal health and reproductive health programs,” she said.
No need for consent
Brosas pointed out that just the day before, the chamber passed on final reading House Bill No. 8910, or the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Act, which gives adolescents age 15 to 18 years old access to reproductive health services without the need for a parent’s or guardian’s consent.
The same access is granted to those below 15 but who have begun child-bearing or have experienced sexual abuse.
The bill was unanimously approved by 232 congressmen in plenary on Tuesday night.
“We just passed this bill yesterday, so it is good to see where funds for reproductive health services will actually go,” she said.
Lagman was one of the primary authors of the bill and also a key author of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (Republic Act No. 10354).
The Albay congressman noted that even with improved maternal and infant mortality ratios 10 years after the enactment of RA 10354, the contraceptive prevalence rate had dipped to 41.8 percent from 49 percent in 2012.
“That is very much far behind [the rate in] other countries,” Herbosa noted.