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Saturday, October 06, 2007

An aggressive stance by the 14th Congress

Efforts on RH/PopDev advocacy towards Congress is finally bearing fruit. Our champion, Congressman Edcel Lagman as Head of the Appropriations Committee has taken the bold and long overdue step of allocating government funds for "reproductive health care and services", including but not limited to condoms, pills and the like.


House allots P1B for condoms
JESS DIAZ / The Philippine Star / 4 October

The House of Representatives will allot P1 billion in next year’s national budget for the purchase of condoms, birth control pills and other “reproductive health products” to control population growth, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said yesterday.

Lagman, who is appropriations committee chairman, said the government has to finally confront the burgeoning population problem by allocating funds for “population management.”

“We cannot separate population growth from economic expansion and human development,” he said.

He lamented that the Arroyo administration has failed to tackle the population problem “because President Arroyo is afraid of the (Catholic) bishops and partly because of her religious beliefs.”

Lagman revealed the P1-billion fund he intends to appropriate for population control at the start of the plenary discussions on the proposed P1.227-trillion 2008 national budget.

He said there is only a “small amount” of P30 million in the budget of the Department of Health for population management-related projects.

In sponsoring the proposed 2008 spending program, Lagman said the “reality of limited resources is compounded by the numerous demands of an exploding population which is projected to escalate to 90,457,200 next year and the crippling constraints of an enormous debt service.”

He said the House would be making a “political statement” by setting aside funds for the first time for “reproductive health, responsible parenthood and population development.”

“We cannot achieve genuine and sustainable human development if we continue to default in addressing the population problem,” he said.

He pointed out that the nation’s population is growing at an annual rate of 2.34 percent, one of the highest in the world.

A burgeoning population “impacts adversely on all indicators of human development, such as health, education, shelter, food security, employment, and the environment,” he stressed.

He cited a recent world human development study, which ranked the Philippines 12th in population and 84th in human development. China and India, the first and second most populous nations, placed 81st and 126th, respectively, in terms of human development.

Lagman said poor couples in the provinces want to “manage” their families by availing of birth control products but cannot afford them.

He said the government should provide such products and offer population management education and seminars.

He also advocated the repudiation of some loans to bring down debt service expenses and the repeal of the Marcos-era Presidential Decree 1177, which allows MalacaƱang to automatically appropriate loan payment funds.

He said the Marcos decree negates the so-called power over the purse that Congress is supposed to exclusively enjoy.

He added that bills for the repeal of the decree have been filed since the 8th Congress (15 years ago), but MalacaƱang has so far successfully blocked moves to take away its automatic appropriation power.