DOH to realign funds, tap international aid for contraceptives
MANILA, Philippines — Despite the removal of the P1-billion budget for family planning supplies for 2016, the Department of Health (DOH) vowed on Wednesday, to continue to provide poor Filipino couples with contraceptives by realigning some of its funds and sourcing aid from international donors.
In a press briefing on Wednesday, Health Secretary Janette Garin said the DOH and the Department of Budget and Management have initially identified P337.5 million from the 2015 budget for realignment to address the lack of funding for family planning commodities this year.
The amount was initially allotted for the second tranche of procurement of blood pressure apparatus for use in barangay health centers, Garin told reporters. The equipment had already been bid out but had to be cancelled due to the unexpected budget cut on contraceptives, she said.
“There was an ongoing procurement of these equipment until we sat in a meeting with the Senate committee on finance,” she said.
Garin disclosed that the health agency, the Senate committee and the DBM had a meeting on Jan. 11 to discuss the budget reduction, nearly a week after she publicly disclosed that the bicameral conference committee had slashed P1 billion from its P3.2-billion allocation for “Family Health and Responsible Parenting” (FHRP) line item.
“The P1 billion cut affects the procurement of family planning commodities. The remaining P2.2 billion is intended for the purchase of vaccines and micronutrients, medicines and dental supplies,” she explained.
Realigning the remaining P2.2 billion for the purchase of family planning supplies was not possible “because this will mean sacrificing immunization, nutrition and other health programs, which already have identified beneficiaries,” she added.
She said the DOH would continue to procure family planning commodities using the money originally intended for the additional blood pressure apparatus, which would be enough to cover the first half of the year.
The DOH would look for other sources of funds, which might include agency savings identified and declared at the end of the year, and assistance from developmental partners, she added.
Two foreign governments and a foreign private organization have also pledged to aid the DOH in the purchase of family planning commodities, she disclosed.
Earlier, she said the supply of contraceptives purchased with last year’s budget would be good only up to March this year.
The amount allocated for the blood pressure monitors was part of the P828 million, which Sen. Loren Legarda claimed as “unobligated” funds of the DOH.
Also part of the P828 million remaining balance from last year’s P2.6 billion allotment for FHRP was the allocation for family planning implants worth P337.5 million, which later on had been used to procure cervical cancer vaccines when the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the implants, and P153.8 million for the school-based immunization.
“So from the P828 million, the only available amount is the P337.5 million for the blood pressure apparatus. We are now working on the processes we need to do so that the money can now be used for the procurement of contraceptives in preparation for the second quarter of this year,” she explained.
“I already clarified that with Sen. Legarda that out of the P1.6 billion, the remaining balance is actually P337.5 million,” she added.
Garin said the P1 billion that was deleted from the DOH’s budget was needed for the implementation of the reproductive health law but she assured the public that the agency could find other sources to ensure the sufficient supply of family planning commodities for this year.
“Yes, we need the P1 billion but we can find sources because President Aquino is supportive of the RH law and the DBM and the National Economic and Development Authority also mentioned that this is a program that should not be stopped,” said the health chief. SFM
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