House will seek to restore P880-M budget for contraceptives

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 06 2010 07:07 PM | Updated as of Dec 07 2010 07:32 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives will fight for the restoration of the P880 million budget for contraceptives that was slashed to just P8 million in the Senate version of the 2011 proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA).

House Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte told this to House media at the sidelines of the opening of an exhibit on HIV advocates at the Mitra Hall of the Batasan Pambansa on Monday.

Belmonte said, “Well personally, I wouldn’t reduce it to P8 million. That is virtually to eliminate the item altogether. There is a way by which it can be augmented...Hopefully, the House contingent will manage to get it up, if not to the original figure but substantially…., not necessarily P800 million, 'di lang napakaliit na P8 million."

Belmonte also urged his colleagues to go for an AIDS test in addition to a drugs test. “Magpa-voluntary check tayong lahat. Pa-check up tayong lahat. Di lang HIV, pati droga pa-check natin.”

Belmonte, who as Quezon City mayor led the passage of a city ordinance on reproductive health, expressed concern at the growing number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country.

“Itong AIDS sa Pilipinas, kokonti pa kung ipaparis natin sa AIDS sa ibang bansa …Sa ibang bansa, pababa, sa Pilipinas pataas. That’s why were very concerned about it. Kung ipaparis mo sa Thailand or India, naglalakihan pero ang trend, pababa. Sa atin, konti, pero pataas.”

The House and the Senate are expected to formally start the 3-day bicameral conference committee on Tuesday. Panel members are expected to be named during Monday’s plenary session.

Belmonte expects that since there are not a lot of substantive differences between the House and Senate versions, the bill will be passed into law before Congress goes on Christmas break next week.

The bicameral committee is supposed to reconcile the conflicting versions of the House and the Senate.

"As far as I’m informed, per chairman Cong. Jun Abaya, there are no big differences. Within 2-3 days allocated to them, I think that they will be able to come out with a report that would hopefully be acceptable to both the House and Senate,” Belmonte said.

Once the bicameral committee comes out with a committee report, both chambers will have to ratify the reconciled bill the bicameral committee will produce.