MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) has expressed support for two controversial measures still pending in Congress.
During a hearing on his agency's proposed 2013 budget on Tuesday, Health Secretary Enrique Ona called for the immediate passage of the reproductive health (RH) and sin tax bills.
Ona noted during his presentation before the Senate finance committee that maternal deaths have risen from 162 per 100,000 live births in 2006 to 221 per 100,000 live births in 2011 based on the latest Family Health Survey.
He later told reporters that the DOH's own programs on maternal health and family planning are not enough to address maternal deaths and other reproductive health-related problems.
Ona said there's a need for a national policy on reproductive health, not necessarily to control the population but to give families the choice on the number of children they want to have.
"Hindi naman natin pinipilit ang nanay na huwag nang manganak, at hindi naman natin sinasabi kung ilan lang ang dapat niyang anak," he said, echoing the arguments of RH bill proponents.
The RH bill is now past the period of interpellation and debates in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, but the period of amendments has yet to begin.
Ona also backed the sin tax bill, citing the potential funds it will yield for health programs and its positive effects on public health.
Under the proposed measure, the DOH's universal healthcare program will have a big share from the P60 billion revenues that higher taxes on cigarettes and liquors are expected to generate.
"These amendments will allow us to maximize our capacity to improve health facilities as well as reduce over time the complications or the after-effects of smoking and drinking," Ona said at the hearing.
The Senate's Ways and Means Committee is currently deliberating the measure, which the House has earlier approved.