THE House of Representatives has approved the Duterte administration’s proposed P3.35-trillion budget for 2017, without amendments, on second reading Wednesday night.
House Bill 3408, the appropriations bill hiking the budget by 11.6 percent from the 2016 outlay, hurdled second reading approval with a viva voce vote.
Of this amount, P168 billion will be spent on social services including education (P118 billion for the construction of school buildings) and increasing the government subsidy for health insurance premium payments for indigent families amounting to at least P50 billion.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte also pushed for the retention of the proposed P1.2-billion budget for reproductive health (RH) services in 2017.
Alvarez noted that President Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly emphasized the need for family planning during the campaign and after his election.
“The budget for family planning should be huge because this will also involve information drive in the communities, down to the barangay (village) level,” Alvarez told reporters ahead of the budget approval.
“Couples cannot go on just bearing children as long as they want to. If we want our government programs to work, we should manage our population growth. Otherwise, all government programs will go to waste,” he argued.
The RH bill, signed into law by then President Benigno Aquino 3rd in 2012, mandates access to family planning services for families, including condoms, pills and intrauterine devices, as well as provides for optional age-appropriate sex education.
The Supreme Court however outlawed the distribution of abortifacients, among other RH Law provisions, even as it declared it “not unconstitutional.”
It ordered the Food and Drug Administration to check and certify which contraceptives are not abortifacients.
The Aquino administration proposed a P1.157-billion allocation for family planning supplies in the 2016 budget, but the Senate, at the request of Sen. Vicente Sotto 3rd, slashed P1 billion of that amount.
Sotto had argued that the budget slash took into account the Supreme Court’s ruling on contraceptive implants and other abortifacients.
Rep. Pia Cayetano of Taguig City, one of the authors of the RH bill when she was in the Senate, welcomed Alvarez’s pronouncements.
“This is a welcome statement because for many years, the RH advocates know that there has been resistance in pushing forward for the RH agenda,” Cayetano said in a separate statement.