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Legarda: Some funds removed from family-planning budget will go to Defense

Some of the funds that would have been used by the Department of Health to purchase contraceptives for its family planning program will now be used to augment the budget of the Department of National Defense instead, Senator Loren Legarda said Thursday.

The allocation for Family Health and Responsible Parenting (FHRP) in the General Appropriations Act for 2016 is P2,275,078,000, down from P3,274,078,000 in 2015.

On Monday, Health Secretary Janette Garin revealed in a television interview that what had been removed was the allocation for contraceptives such as condoms, pills, and intrauterine devices (IUDs).

"We will now be again dependent on donors for the money for contraceptives,” she said.

Legarda, who heads the Senate's finance committee, explained that the cut was made after assessing its possible impact on the FHRP program.

“We took note that as of June 2015 the DOH status of funds showed that of the 3.27 billion pesos allocation [for the family planning program], only 955 million pesos has been obligated or 29%. For the remaining 6 months, 2.3 billion pesos or 71% has yet to be obligated,” Legarda explained in a message to GMA News Online.

'Totally unacceptable'

Earlier Thursday, fellow Senator and Reproductive Health Law principal author Pia Cayetano had expressed her dismay over the budget cut.

“At every stage of the 2016 budget process, I had asked for details. This was work in progress and the detailed amendments were not readily available. Thus, we work on a basis of trust—that the Chair of the finance committee [Legarda] would not make significant changes without informing the body, or in the case of RH, no major changes will be made without informing me, knowing that I sponsored the measure,” she said in a statement.

“As of this time, my office is looking into this because this is totally unacceptable,” Cayetano added.

Defense department

Legarda, who is also an RH advocate, said that part of the money that would have gone towards the contraceptives fund will now be used to bolster the air assets of the Defense Department.

This will be “timely and equally important given the West Philippine Sea issue,” she added.

Legarda also said that the unused 2015 budget is still available in 2016 and that agencies such as the Health department may augment their current budget with their savings.  — BM, GMA News