No specific line item on RH in 2016 budget
THE INQUIRER’S July 28 editorial, titled “Make RH Law real,” mentioned Sen. Loren Legarda as putting up “the latest hurdle” to the full implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act (RH Law).
First, we wish to put on record that Senator Legarda voted in favor of the RH Law and supports its full implementation.
We wish to clarify that there is no specific line item on reproductive health in the entire 2016 national budget. The P1-billion cut was imposed on the 2016 Family Health and Responsible Parenting (FHRP) program of the Department of Health. There is no amount on how much will be spent for family planning commodities. Programming of the FHRP is within the DOH’s ambit.
The cut on the FHRP was made due to the temporary restraining order (TRO) of the Supreme Court on the purchase of Progestin Subdermal Implants. Included in the proposed budget submitted by the DOH to the Department of Budget and Management is the allocation for the FHRP, which includes P520 million for the implants. Congress cannot fund an item that is the subject of a TRO. Thus, the cut of P1 billion is attributed to the P520 million, and the remaining cut of P480 million will be partially offset by the unused P337.5 million allocation for the implants in 2015.
Moreover, the DOH has enough budget to fund for family planning commodities for this year. The FHRP program has an allocation of P2.2 billion in 2016 and more than P1.2 billion in the last quarter of 2015 to be implemented in 2016. Also, historical data show that the DOH-Office of the Secretary has savings every year—P5.46 billion (13.84 percent of its total budget) in 2012; P7.578 billion (16.03 percent) in 2013; and P9.2 billion (16.54 percent) in 2014. Projected savings for 2015 is P8.8 billion. These unused obligations or savings can be realigned within the agency as long as approved by the President.
Finally, the whole budgetary process was done in the most transparent and inclusive manner. The traditional budgetary legislative process was followed. All changes proposed by the bicameral conference committee were contained in the Bicameral Report that the Senate unanimously ratified as a body and thus carried in the 2016 General Appropriations Act.
We hope this clarifies the issue.
—RACHEL HERRERA, chief legal officer, Office of Sen. Loren Legarda, Senate of the Philippines, Pasay City
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