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Palace on removal of budget for contraceptives: Try again after 2016 polls

The Department of Health might have to wait until after the 2016 elections for any move to bring back the P1 billion allotted for family planning commodities for 2016 that was removed from the DOH's budget for 2016 by the Senate, Malacañang said Saturday.

Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III of the Presidential Communications Operations Office on Saturday said it was unfortunate that the P1 billion earmarked for the purchase of contraceptives was removed from the department's P124-billion budget for 2016.

"Siguro ang mangyayari dito, and perhaps after the elections, puwedeng i-propose na ibalik ang budget na ito. Ngunit nakakalungkot at sinabi na nga ni Secretary Garin na [nalungkot] siya na tinanggal ang budget na ito," said Quezon.

Health Secretary Janette Garin had said that Congress originally approved the P1-billion allocation for contraceptives, but that it was later removed during the bicameral conference. Garin said the allocation was supposed to be for contraceptives such as condoms, pills, and intrauterine devices (IUDs).

Quezon admitted it has always been difficult to appeal decisions made during bicameral conferences. "Sa aking pagkakaintindi—and this is just my opinion as someone who has been observing the legislative process—pagdating sa bicam medyo mahirap na talagang i-appeal ‘yon," he said.

Quezon said appealing Congress' decision to scrap the budget would result in the deliberation process dragging on.

"Alam niyo naman na kailangan ipasa ito on-time at naipasa na ito, napirmahan na ito, and unfortunately that’s the situation," he said.

With the budget for contraceptives scrapped, the DOH will be left to seek additional funding from non-government organizations and other institutions.

"Binanggit ni Secretary Garin that she would appeal to NGOs and other institutions to help with this effort, dahil makakatulong din naman ito sa mga gustong mag-avail ng ganitong mga item ayon sa kanilang konsensya," said Quezon.

He added that it was better to have a portion of the DOH budget scrapped than put the entire budget in peril.

"Mas lalong unfair siguro kung kahit malungkot tayo na tinanggal na ‘yung budget na ‘yon [ay] baka naman mameligro ‘yung buong budget dahil doon. So ‘yon ang nangyari doon," he said.

Legarda, who heads the Senate's finance committee, explained that the cut was made after assessing its possible impact on the Family Health and Responsible Parenthood 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.

Legarda said some of the funds that would have been used by the DOH to purchase contraceptives for its family planning program will now be used to augment the budget of the Department of National Defense instead. — Mark Merueñas/BM, GMA News