THE Senate finance committee defended on Friday the move to slash the family planning budget of the Department of Health (DOH) by P1 billion, saying the amount will be used to fund equally-important projects of other government agencies.
Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate committee on finance, said instead of going to the family health and responsible parenting (FHRP) program of the DOH, the P1 billion was used to increase the budgets of other agencies such as the Department of National Defense and state universities and colleges (SUCs).
Last year, the FHRP was given a budget P3.2 billion. It was reduced to P2.2 billion this year to the dismay of Senators Pia Cayetano and Miriam Defensor-Santiago, authors of the Reproductive Health bill.
“I am therefore appalled at the cut on reproductive health allocations in the 2016 budget. It is irreconcilable that Congress, which enacted the RH Law after much hardship in 2012, would three years later render that same law inutile,” Santiago said.
According to Santiago, the P1 billion budget cut will deprive some seven million women of reproductive health services.
“This abandonment is immoral in a country where some 200 out of 100,000 women who give birth die,” she added.
Cayetano said the significant budget cut was unacceptable.
“We work on a basis of trust – that the chairman of the finance committee would not make significant changes without informing the body, or in the case of RH, no major changes will be made without informing me, knowing that I sponsored the measure,” she fumed.
But Legarda said the decision to cut the allocation for FHRP was made after assessing its impact on the program.
They also took note that as of June 2015, the DOH status of funds showed that of the P3.27 billion allocation, only 20 percent or P955 million has been obligated.
For the remaining six months, around P2.3 billion or 71 percent has yet to be obligated.
“The unused 2015 budget is still available and the agencies may augment deficient items from their savings,” Legarda pointed out.
Senator Vicente Sotto 3rd said the DOH still has more than P2 billion to be used for the procurement of contraceptives this year.
“What was cut by the committee was merely part of their procurement budget for pills, IUDs, injectables, condoms and others. They still have P2.2 billion for procurement of those commodities,” Sotto added.