MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives has come up with a new Reproductive Health (RH) bill, which it hopes to approve before the end of the year.
“It is a definite step forward. It addresses a lot of objections to the original bill,” Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. told reporters yesterday.
He said he had asked the concerned committees to come up with a bill that would incorporate all that RH proponents and oppositors had agreed on.
“My idea was to come out with a final text that we could rationally say this is what we are talking about. Some of the opposition may feel that with some tinkering, this is already acceptable,” he said.
He said one of the changes introduced in the new bill is a provision ensuring that the process of fertilization and conception would not be impeded.
“Once fertilization occurred, nothing should obstruct the fertilized egg from then on,” he stressed.
Belmonte revealed that he learned from some doctors that there are contraceptive pills in the market that actually prevent fertilization and “do everything.”
“We have to exclude those,” he said.
He said another change is the focus of RH expenditures on poor households.
“Not everybody can get it. Funding is directed to the poor,” he said.
He said he hoped his chamber could vote on the new measure on second and third and final reading before Congress goes on its Christmas break in mid-December.
“I am hopeful there would be less contentious issues when we take this up anew,” he added.
Shortly before the chamber adjourned its session Wednesday night, Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II told his colleagues that the secretariat had distributed copies of a substitute RH bill.
“Let us study it because we will tackle the measure we resume session on Nov. 5,” he said.
Last Aug. 6, after a Palace caucus presided over by President Aquino, congressmen voted overwhelmingly to terminate floor debates on the RH bill. The measure however has not moved since then, with those opposed to it resorting to every possible maneuver to block it.
Conspicuously absent in the substitute bill is the provision that seeks to allocate an initial P3 billion for the procurement of pills and other contraceptives to be distributed to poor households.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the authors of the proposed law on RH, responsible parenthood and population and development, said the substitute measure is the product of consultations between the pro- and anti-RH blocs in the House.
He said the new measure has addressed the “objections, reservations and concerns” of those opposed to the bill “but does not dilute its essence.”