MANILA, Philippines - A reproductive health (RH) law is more simple and costs less to implement than other government projects like the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said on Wednesday.
Santiago, the principal author of the RH bill in the Senate, said experts have estimated that P3 billion a year is needed to implement the measure once it is enacted into law.
"The RH cost of P3 billion a year is only one-seventh or 14.3 percent of the P21 billion cost of the CCT program," she said in the third part of her co-sponsorship speech on the controversial measure. "On the one hand, the RH program is self-targeting, meaning that typically, it is the poor who self-select to obtain the RH services which they cannot afford on their own."
"On the other hand and by contrast, the CCT program distributes cash which is fungible, meaning that it can be precisely replaced by another."
Santiago explained that unlike the CCT which distributes cash, RH services prevent the danger of the money getting to unintended recipients.
She added that he CCT program--which has P39 billion in the proposed national budget for 2012--is "more costly in terms of direct budgetary allocation, as well as the administrative requirements."
In her speech, Santiago cited statistics underscoring the need for an RH law, like the 5,000 mothers who die every year due to childbirth and pregnancy-related complications.
The senator also reiterated that the measure would help prevent abortion and not promote it. Citing records, she said 1 out of 3 unplanned pregnancies end up in abortion.
"The Act will provide full information to any mother on the entire menu of family planning options, making it unnecessary for the mother to resort to abortion," Santiago said.
Santiago stressed that contraceptives do not induce abortion, saying the issue has been laid to rest in 2006 during deliberations at the House of Representatives.
As for when life begins--a question often raised in RH debates--Santiago said there is no consensus on it even among scientists.
"And it would be presumptuous for legislators to settle this question by the expedient of parliamentary debate. We cannot settle a scientific issue by spouting anecdotal evidence to support a layman's view," she said.
Santiago went on to explain the importance of providing sex education to the youth to help them avoid sexually risky behavior, and of adopting a policy to manage the country's growing population.
She cited a study in 2008 by 27 economics professors from the University of the Philippines explaining how rapid population growth hinders the country's economic progress.
"Rapid population growth is largely caused the least urbanized, least educated, and poorest segments of our population," Santiago said. "The bigger the family, the poorer. The bigger the family, the less educated the children. The poor know this, and prefer smaller families, but they are unable to keep the family small."
Santiago emphasized the need for the law to be passed, citing the results of a Social Weather Stations survey in the 2nd quarter of this year showing that 73 percent of Filipinos want information on legal family planning methods available from the government.
She also lauded President Benigno Aquino III for making the RH bill a priority measure.
"In light of these developments, the democratic option is to pass the RH bill," Santiago said.
Senate debates on the measure will begin next week.