MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines may have to rely on donations to manage its population which is seen to hit 100 million this year, a health official said yesterday.
Health Undersecretary Janet Garin said this is primarily due to the reduction in the Department of Health (DOH)’s budget for the purchase of contraceptives.
Garin said when the Senate ratified last month the bicameral conference committee report on the proposed P2.265-trillion budget for 2014, P304 million was removed from the DOH budget for contraceptive pills.
She said the budget is supposed to be used to implement the Reproductive Health Law whose implementation has been stalled due to a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court.
Garin admitted that the budget cut will have an impact on the DOH’s reproductive health programs which include family planning, oral care and maternal and child health care.
She, however, said they remain hopeful that with the cooperation of the public and local government units (LGUs), they will be able to overcome this concern.
Donors to fill gap
Garin also expressed hope that donors would be able to fill the gap in contraceptive supplies.
“Somehow, there will be a problem but I think donors see our political will. We keep our fingers crossed that they will cover the gap,” she said.
Garin said at present, the Philippines is getting contraceptive donations from the United Nations Population Fund.
In 2002, barely a year after former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed office, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it would stop donating contraceptives to the Philippines by 2004.
The USAID, then the Philippines’ largest contraceptive donor, felt that the country was relying too much on donations.
Arroyo was also against the procurement of contraceptives by the national government.
High time to buy contraceptives
To prepare for a 100-million population, Commission on Population executive director Juan Antonio Perez III has underscored the need to buy contraceptives as soon as possible.
Perez said contraceptive use in the country must reach 65 to 70 percent to cope with the increase in population.
“But right now, the use of contraceptives is only at 49 percent,” he said, adding that doctors will also have to be trained on vasectomy and tubal ligation.
“Very often these sterilization services are only available at the provincial level. We have to make sure that it is available even at the district level, even down to the barangay level,” he said.
Perez said there should also be an intensified information campaign on all types of reproductive health methods to assist couples who want to manage the size of their families.