WHO backs gov’t stand on RH
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - April 9, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly supports the Philippine government’s position on the reproductive health law and is ready to help defend the measure before the Supreme Court (SC).

The WHO made the statement yesterday as it honored President Aquino with “Recognition for Outstanding Leadership in Health” for the enactment of the RH and sin tax laws under his administration.

“As far as the World Health Organization is concerned, we continue to support this position and we look forward to a favorable outcome from the Supreme Court,” WHO director Susan Mercado said in
reference to the SC issuance of a 120-day temporary restraining order against the RH law.

“I think the go signal coming from the Supreme Court will quell all of the doubts about (the) constitutionality of the law… I think what we will see is an improvement in services, women will have more access. There will be more education on responsible parenthood and, overall, that will improve the health of women and children in this country,” Mercado added.

She also bared that WHO provided technical support to the Philippine government in drafting the RH bill and during deliberations in Congress.

Asked if WHO could intervene in court cases, Mercado said the health organization would normally gives advisories to the Philippine government through the Department of Health.

“Usually, the World Health Organization is not asked to testify in courts. Although, in the case of some of the work in tobacco control in the past in other countries, WHO has been asked to give expert opinion if needed. So this is not something that we present but, I suppose if we are asked, then that would be something that will be discussed with the government of the Philippines,” Mercado said.

Meanwhile, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific Shin Young-soo said that the health organization is happy that Aquino carried on the advocacies of his late mother, former President Corazon Aquino.

“President Aquino has courageously pursued health policies that will literally save millions of lives. He has been active on many fronts. He supported sin tax reform to generate revenue for universal health care and improve health facilities – a move that will benefit millions of Filipinos, especially the vulnerable,” Shin said.

Shin also noted the President’s support for the RH Law could mean fewer tragedies at childbirth and “children will be healthier and families will have the power to make their own family planning decisions.”

“These are tremendous accomplishments in the political landscape of the Philippines. President Aquino is not a medical doctor, nor is he a public health specialist. But what he has achieved is beyond what any doctor or public expert could have done. He has shown perseverance in pursuing better health for Filipinos – sometimes against formidable resistance,” Shin added.

Noy’s deep gratitude

Aquino expressed deep gratitude to the WHO in accepting the award.

“I accept this honor with deep gratitude, knowing full well that it recognizes not the triumph of a single man against seemingly insurmountable odds, but the strength of a people willing and eager and fervently working towards change,” Aquino said.

“The laws we were able to pass, the reforms we are seeing in the healthcare sector – all of these emanate from our staunch resolve to reinstitute integrity in government service,” the President added.

In explaining his support for the RH law, Aquino also cited the case of a 16-year-old mother from Baseco compound in Tondo, Manila whom he met during the campaign in 2010. The President said he thought about how she could possibly raise her three children when the father could barely eke out a living as a pedicab driver.

“I believe that there is something inherently unjust when a child growing up in Baseco cannot enjoy the same opportunity to live a productive, healthy life as those of us here in this conference hall,” Aquino said.

“I believe that four out of 10 Filipinos who die without ever encountering a healthcare professional in their lifetime is a number that is simply too high. Proper nutrition, proper access to healthcare, and an opportunity to build a dignified life – these should not be reserved only for those who have the means to pay for it,” he added.

The President said his administration pushed the RH law and the Sin Tax Reform law to provide Filipinos equal access to health care and to increase the budget for health services.

He noted that “86 percent of Filipinos are now enrolled in PhilHealth insurance, with the lowest quintile of our population already benefiting from our ‘no balance billing’ policy which allows them to get treated in government hospitals without shelling out a single peso.”

Aquino also said that through focused government spending, the DOH’s budget rose by 78 percent and the budget of the Department of Education by 44 percent.

Meanwhile, the fund of the Department of Social Welfare and Development increased by a staggering 268 percent, with the conditional cash transfer program increasing its coverage from about 800,000 indigent households to more than 3.8 million indigent households.

Aquino said the bigger budget came from proper use of resources rather than increasing taxes.

“I call this the five R’s of prudent government spending: The right project, managed by the right people, who will ensure the right quality, and deliver it with reduced cost and at the right time – cheaper and sooner than the public has come to get used to.”

AQUINO BASECO DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION GOVERNMENT HEALTH MERCADO PRESIDENT PRESIDENT AQUINO SUPREME COURT WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
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