Duterte won't allow 2020 budget cut for family planning

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

December 11, 2019, 5:44 pm

<p>President Rodrigo R. Duterte</p>

President Rodrigo R. Duterte

MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte will not allow Congress to slash the proposed 2020 allocation for the implementation of family planning program, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said on Wednesday.

"No. The President will not allow that," Pernia told Palace reporters, when sought to react to the Senate's decision to cut the Department of Health's (DOH) PHP195-million budget for the purchase of subdermal implants.

"It's only now that it's really seriously implemented... That is one of his pet projects," he added.

On Dec. 3, Senate President Vicente Sotto III announced the Senate's decision to remove the PHP195-million allocation for subdermal implants included in the proposed budget of the DOH in 2020.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said the proposed funding for contraceptive implants should not be deleted since the use of the products has been proven safe and effective.

The Health chief stressed the budget is "necessary to sustain an effective family planning program," in compliance with provisions of the Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law.

The DOH earlier cited the subdermal implant, a new family planning method, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as safe, legal and non-abortifacient.

On March 4 this year, the President approved the "full and intensified" implementation of family planning program in the country to provide 11.3 million women access to effective modern contraceptives and prevent four million unintended pregnancy over the next four years.

Duterte gave his approval, in an effort to reduce poverty incidence in the country, which currently has the highest fertility rate and fastest growing population in Southeast Asia.

The current administration is targeting to bring down poverty rate to 14 percent in 2022, when Duterte steps down from office.

Poverty incidence stood at 16.6 percent or 17.6 million Filipinos, lower than 2015's 23.3 percent or 23.5 million Filipinos.

At the weekly economic press conference, Pernia said the government's target to reduce poverty may be changed to "10 to 12 percent" from the original plan to bring it down to 14 percent in 2022.

'Costly failure'

At the same press briefing, Pernia claimed the government's failure to continue the implementation of family planning program, which was launched in 1969, has turned out to be the country's "costly failure".

He then cited the case of Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia that have lower poverty incidence because they are implementing family planning.

Philippine Statistics Authority Assistant Secretary Rosalinda Bautista, who joined Pernia at the weekly economic briefing, noted that the poverty rate in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia are 8.6 percent, 0.4 percent, and 10.6 percent, respectively.

Pernia said the Philippines' poverty incidence would have gone down had it implemented the family planning methods earlier.

"I was comparing the cases of the Philippines, which did not sustain the family planning program since the late 70s, whereas Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia just continued on with their family planning program without disruption. And there's a big difference in terms of poverty incidence," Pernia said.

"So that is the kind of difference our non-continuation of our family planning program, [which] started in 1969, has been a costly failure on our part," he added.

The family planning program was official launched in 1969 through Executive Order 171 and was institutionalized as a national policy then through RA 6365 and Presidential Decree 79.

Pernia said the current administration's family planning is "going full steam."

"We have intensified our family planning program. This is a program that has been neglected by the previous administrations, but now it is going full steam, we are providing access to family planning services to women or couples who desire to have fewer children than what they're having," he said.

"So with family planning services, the wanted number of children is being made possible now for couples and for women, especially those coming from the poor sector. It is also an important instrument in bringing down poverty," Pernia added. (PNA)