Budget for free family planning commodities needed to aid poor women – PCW

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) expresses concern over the reported removal of funding for purchase of contraceptives in the 2016 budget of the Department of Health (DOH).

Section 10 of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act (RA 10354, RPRH Law) provides that “the DOH shall procure, distribute to local government units (LGUs) and monitor the usage of family planning supplies for the whole country” taking into consideration the “number of women of reproductive age and couples who want to space or limit their children, contraceptive prevalence rate, by type of method used, and cost of family planning supplies.”

“We are deeply dismayed about it. Women and advocates of the RPRH Law have waited long for its passage and just when we thought that its provisions will finally be implemented, we are saddled by another obstacle. Our primary concern is its negative effect on the poor women who are dependent on the free family planning commodities being provided by the DOH,” PCW Executive Director Emmeline L. Verzosa said.

Earlier this year, Health Secretary Dr. Janette Garin revealed that the Bicameral Committee has slashed the P1-Billion allocation for contraceptives in the 2016 National budget.  Later reports state that the budget cut is due to alleged underutilization by DOH of 2015 budget for the said item.

“We hope that both Congress and the Executive branch through the DOH can clarify this issue immediately. Providing free access to family planning commodities to poor women is meant to help address our country’s high maternal mortality rate. Our maternal mortality rate continues to be high at 221 per 100,000 live births. We can no longer allow poor mothers to die of pregnancy and child birth complications when we can provide them with free options. The public has the right to know the real situation and for poor women it can be as simple as an assurance that they will continue to have free access to contraceptives when they need it,” Verzosa explained.

Respect the law, respect Filipino women

For PCW Chairperson Remedios I. Rikken, allocating no budget for purchase and distribution of free contraceptives is a violation of the RPRH Law.

“This is an insult to the hard work of the women’s movement and RPRH advocates who pushed for the passage of the law for 13 years. The law is valid and was approved. Section 10 of the RPRH Law was written clearly – DOH shall purchase and then distribute family planning supplies for free, so they have to have budget for that. We did not expect the legislators themselves would violate the law that they have written, debated on and passed just like that,” she said.

“We will support the DOH as we continue to respect, protect and uphold women’s rights,” she added.

The PCW is a staunch supporter of the RPRH Law. The agency pushed for the inclusion of important provisions during the drafting of the IRR, for example, the need for health service providers to be trained on gender sensitive handling of clients, for referral facility for adolescents especially for those who experienced gender-based violence, and for the Commission on Human Rights, as Gender and Development Ombud, to investigate on the violations of the law. Some of the provisions of the IRR include formation of community health teams to increase the awareness of health risks among families, wide information campaign on RH rights and services, capacity training of health workers, and reconstruction of hospital and rural health units to ensure quality maternal services.