Budget cut a ‘big blow’ to program — RH advocate

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) – A group of legislators who have lobbied for the passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill for the past 14 years decried the P1 billion budget cut for the program, saying it exposes women to the dangers of maternal deaths.

“The cut is a big blow to the gains of recent years in terms of lowering the maternal deaths of women in the country,” Romeo Dongeto, executive director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation (PLCPD), said on CNN Philippines’ Newsroom on Wednesday (January 13).

He cited data from the Department of Health (DOH) that maternal deaths have decreased from 129 in 2010 to 114 in 2015. With this big gain, Dongeto also noted an increase in the use of contraceptives.

He said seven million women in the Philippines today rely on modern contraceptives.

But with the budget cut, Dongeto said the government deprives poor women of free services and commodities, exposing them to the hazards of maternal complications.

He said this can result in the country’s failure to achieve the millennium development goal (MDG) of only 52 maternal deaths annually.

“You remove the budget; you sabotage the whole reproductive health and family planning program of the government. That’s how serious is the cut,” Dongeto said.

Budget cut a ‘sabotage’

Dongeto also slammed budget cut proponents for “sabotaging” the implementation of the RH program.

“Without political will and without political support, this program will only be subjected every year to the threat of budget cut. There are forces in the country that are actively seeking to hinder the implementation of the law,” he said.

But he vowed more than 60 lawmakers, who are members of the PLCPD, will be more vigilant and will continue to campaign for the proper implementation of the RH program.

Call for LGU support

Dongeto said one solution to the current budget cut is to seek for supplemental budget. However, he said it seems impossible now due to the upcoming elections.

Moreover, Dongeto said the DOH claimed it already spent 90 percent of RH funds for family planning commodities. “So what is left is measly 82 million pesos. That’s nothing.”

For now, Dongeto said the ultimate solution is to convince local government units to provide funding for family planning services and commodities.

He also said women should choose leaders who will uphold their right to RH services.