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Family planning advocates seek full implementation of RH law

CEBU CITY, Philippines  —   Family planning advocates yesterday sought the full implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) law and Executive Order No. 12, which call for the attainment of “zero unmet need” for contraceptives.

The delayed implementation of family planning programs is detrimental to Filipino women, according to Benjamin de Leon, president of The Forum for Family Planning and Development.

“The tremendous success of this conference sends a powerful message of unity, strength and love to all Filipinos. It also sends a message to those who are hell-bent in delaying the implementation of family planning programs and thereby, putting women’s lives in danger every day,” De Leon said in a speech during the two-day 2nd National Family Planning Conference here.

Around 1,500 individuals from civil society groups, government agencies and private organizations attended the conference meant to be a venue for sharing of experience, best practices and new researches and innovation in the field of reproductive health. 

Commission on Population (PopCom) executive director Juan Perez III stressed the need to meet the targets enumerated under the EO, so the largest economic and health benefits from the RPRH law could be achieved.

“This second National Family Planning Conference has underlined the importance of the implementation of the RPRH law. The time to implement it is now, and not in the next few years,” Perez said.

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Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, author of the RPRH law, said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should come up with a re-certified list of contraceptives, noting failure to do so has been causing delays in the implementation of the measure. 

Lagman said there is a need to allocate “adequate funding” for family planning for RH commodities and products.

Blame it on politics

Lagman blamed politics for the slow implementation of the RPRH law. He said the “odyssey of family planning and reproductive health did not end with the enactment of the law” and with the SC’s declaration that it is constitutional.
“Reproductive health and family planning continue to navigate the challenging terrain of politics. Politics with its most benign influence as well as its most obstructionist aspect could either elevate or debase the law’s enforcement,” Lagman said during the 2nd National Family Planning Conference here.  

He said the implementation is struggling because of various reasons including other programs that the Department of Health (DOH), the principal implementor fo the law, has to carry out and oversee. 

The Albay lawmaker said the changes in leadership of the DOH is compounding the problem. 

Since the enactment of the law almost five years ago, four DOH secretaries had been at the helm of the agency, the latest of whom is combacking Secretary Francisco Duque. 

He said the adjudicatory process before the SC has political underpinnings.

A temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the high tribunal in June 2015 has been in effect, prohibiting the DOH from including subdermal implanon contraceptives in its family planning program. 

The TRO also prevented the FDA from renewing the licenses of contraceptive products, which resulted in the expiration and phase out of some 24 brands.   

 And with a few exceptions, he said local government units do not have the fiscal and technical means, nor the political will, to help fully implement the law.

He said while proper funding is highlighted in the law, allocation of funds in the annual General Appropriations Act is a continuing battleground between advocates and detractors.

Lagman said that in 2013 or a year after the enactment of the law, the appropriation for family planning supply was P530.7 million and P1.3 billion in 2014.

In 2015 and 2016, the budget went down to P1 billion and P599.9 million, respectively.

For this year, it was reduced to P165 million and  and the proposed budget for 2018 is P342 million.

“Politics will determine the survival of the Reproductive Health Law. Whether it will be repealed, diluted or denied adequate appropriation is a question of politics,” he added. 

Despite this, Lagman expressed hope the RPRH law, being a superior statute, and family planning, as a superior program, will both survive the vicissitudes of politics with the support of non-governmental organizations and civil society.  

Revised IRR launched

One of the highlights of the conference is the launch of the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law, which was signed five years ago. 

Health Undersecretary Herminigildo Valle gave the assurance that the revised IRR complies with the amendments mandated by the Supreme Court as declared in Imbong versus Ochoa and ALFI versus Garin on the RPRH law. 

The revised IRR states that health care service providers who fail and/or refuse to disseminate information regarding programs and services on reproductive health because of his or her religious beliefs will not be punished provided they complied with the requirements as evidence of their beliefs.

“RPRH law is a landmark legislation that laid the foundation in the fulfillment of the reproductive health and rights of all Filipinos toward better health outcomes, and socioeconomic growth and development,” Valle said.

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