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House records show Senate wanted P1.3-B cut in RH funds

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate, upon the initiative of Sen. Vicente Sotto III, had approved a reduction of P1.3 billion – not P1 billion – in the funding for this year for the implementation of the Reproductive Health and Responsible Parenting Law.

Records of the budget conference committee show that President Aquino had proposed P3,275,078,000 for “family health and responsible parenting.”

The House of Representatives, in its version of the 2016 national budget, approved Aquino’s proposal.

However, the Senate, in its own version of the budget, reduced the funding by P1,315,452,000 to P1,959,626,000.

When the conference committee reconciled the two versions, the House fought for the restoration of the amount Aquino had proposed.

But Sen. Loren Legarda, finance committee chairperson who led the Senate conferees, told the House contingent that she could not get her colleagues to approve the conference panel’s report without the cooperation of Sotto and other minority members.

Legarda said a substantial portion of the Sotto-sponsored reduction must remain in the final version of the budget.

Since failure on the part of the Senate to approve the conference committee report would have meant that there was no 2016 budget passed before the end of last year, House conferees led by appropriations committee chairman Isidro Ungab of Davao City were forced to accept a net P1-billion cut.

Thus, the House contingent succeeded in restoring P315,452,000 in funds for family health and responsible parenting.

As reduced, the appropriation now amounts to P2,275,078,000, not P2.6 billion as Sotto claims.

Senators are bickering over their approval of the P1.3-billion cut.

Sen. Pia Cayetano, principal sponsor of the RH Law in the Senate, has taken Legarda to task for supposedly allowing the huge reduction. Cayetano had the impression that the slashing was done by the conference committee.

“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 the basis of trust – that the chair of the finance committee 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.

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

However, Legarda said information about what was agreed in the budget conference was made available to all senators.

“All senators were given a copy of the conference committee report before they voted to ratify. The first page of the report shows both the increase and the decrease in the budget of all agencies, including the Department of Health,” she said.

ACIRC

AQUINO

BUDGET

BUT SEN

COMMITTEE

CONFERENCE

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ISIDRO UNGAB OF DAVAO CITY

LEGARDA

SOTTO

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