RH law author: P1B budget cut affects marginalized sector

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Although the Reproductive Health Law was passed a little over three years ago, the legislation continues to be a contentious topic for lawmakers, as about P1 billion of the bill's funding was slashed from the 2016 General Appropriations Act.

Read: Sen. Pia Cayetano fumes over scrapping of contraceptives budget

One of the law's authors, former Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman told CNN Philippines Headline News on Tuesday (January 12) that the cut is "terrible" and "tragic."

In the interview, Lagman said that those in the marginalized sectors will be affected by the reduced funding.

"It's an ordinate bad impact. Because the law provides that the state is mandated to give universal access to family planning and product services... ang tinamaan dito ang marginalized sector."

Funding for the law was part of the 2016 General Appropriations bill, but Lagman said that a "huge" part of it was deleted by Sen. Vicente "Tito" Sotto. He added that the P1 billion cut "represents about 86 percent of the appropriation."

Watch: PH population may reach 104 million by year-end

Lagman doubts that all members of Congress were given a chance to go over the amendments. "Because in the debate of the Bicameral Conference Committee, the more recent practice is a one-on-one meeting between the [Senate's] finance committee chairman and the chairman of appropriation committee of the House. The participation of the members of the panel of both houses is really marginalized by that kind of practice."

"During my time as an appropriation chairman, we had a real [honest] to goodness bicameral conference committee; everything is recorded. Now let me ask, is there any transcript of the record of the bicameral conference committee? I doubt very much."

Lagman explained that the cut could not have been reverted by the time the bill reached President Benigno Aquino III. "There was nothing for the president to beat in the first place because the expense item was not there anymore."

Probable solution

Nevertheless, Lagman said that the bill could still be receive funds from other sources: "The solution is probably a supplemental budget or to source the funds from the share of the DOH [Department of Health] in incremental revenue of the sin taxes, or get it from the president's contingent fund in addition to donations from international agencies or local agencies."

"RH [Reproductive health] advocates should not put down their card. They should constantly monitor the full implementation of the law both the executive [branch] and by Congress. When I say Congress, [I mean] the appropriate adequate funding for the full and speed implementation of the RH law," Lagman said.