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"No standby fund for RH" does not deter family planning advocates
At the House committee on appropriation’s health budget hearing, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said that the proposed Reproductive Health (RH) bill, if passed into law, would have no allocation under the 2009 budget since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is maintaining her natural family planning policy. As quoted, Secretary Duque said that the department has "not laid out a supplemental budget for the newly proposed reproductive health program."
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But advocates of the bill believe that with or without allocation under the 2009 budget, the bill is urgent as it addresses the rapid increase in population which puts pressure on the country’s yearly budget. "The absence of an allocation should never discourage lawmakers in passing and the people in supporting this very important piece of legislation that would do a lot to help our people avail of RH services, in particular, family planning information and service", explains Benjamin D. De Leon, President of The Forum for Family Planning and Development, Inc. or The Forum. The organization has been actively involved in promoting family planning and improved reproductive health services in the country through numerous projects and activities to gather more support for the RH bill.
"In the past, it has always been possible, and accepted, for the government to divert funds for many urgent projects and even during calamities to assist affected areas and residents. So it will never be difficult to set aside funding for the RH bill when passed because the measure can be justified and can do a lot more for our people. As it is, our rapid population growth is already alarming and is comparable to an impending calamity," De Leon stressed. The Forum together with other organizations have clamored for the passage of the bill to help poor Filipinos, especially in remote areas, receive information on family planning methods and RH services for free. With about 105 legislators now supporting the RH bill, these organizations are hopeful that with the passage, a supplemental budget for an effective health program can be created and passed also by Congress.
Some of the measure’s salient features include the implementation of a mandatory age-appropriate reproductive health education; the purchase and distribution of contraceptives, medicines and supplies by state hospitals; a requiement for the local government units to employ an adequate number of midwives or attendants for a ratio of one for every 150 deliveries per year; and the provision of emergency obstetric care and health care services as well as regular maternal death review, among others.
Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman (1st district), principal author of House Bill (HB) 2043 or the "Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2008," even gave up his chairmanship of the appropriations committee to Rep. Junie E. Cua effective August 26 to focus on the RH bill and urge its passage. Threee House committees -- appropriations, health, and population and family relations — have approved the bill last month and it is now being scheduled for plenary.
The Catholic Church has been opposing the bill due to its endorsement of contraceptives among the modes of population management. The Church has long been promoting the use of natural family planning which the Arroyo government has also adopted.
De Leon added that advocates of the RH bill are not in fact contradicting the Church’s pro-life stance. "Advocates and supporters of the RH bill are mostly Catholics and they are pro-life. But they believe that the freedom to choose the number of children in a family according to the household’s ability to raise and provide the basic needs of these children is also pro-life," according to him. De Leon also urged the supporters of the RH bill to participate in the various activities launched to ensure the swift passage of the bill.