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Thread: The Reproductive Health Bill

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  1. #221
    WHO: PH has fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world

    WHO country representative Julie Hall says the Philippines needs to have a 'bigger response' to bring the epidemic under control

    Jee Y. Geronimo

    @jeegeronimo

    Published 9:36 PM, May 20, 2015

    Updated 10:29 PM, May 20, 2015

    MANILA, Philippines – On the heels of the Philippines' first National HIV Testing Week, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged the country to ramp up its response to put the alarming HIV situation under control.

    "We're seeing a response happening now, but it needs to be bigger," WHO Representative in the Philippines Julie Hall told Rappler in an interview.

    The Philippines has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world, according to Hall.

    Last March 2015, the health department recorded 667 new cases, bringing to 24,376 the cumulative cases since 1984. (READ: New HIV cases in PH hit all-time high – DOH)

    The number of new cases recorded daily has risen from 17 in 2014 to 21 in 2015, but, despite this alarming numbers, Hall lamented that "there probably isn’t enough action right now."

    "The window of opportunity is fairly small and there's a few years, really, where intensive work needs to be done to bring this outbreak into control. Otherwise, it simply gets bigger and bigger, more and more costly, more and more difficult to bring it under control," she added.

    More testing, condoms

    Hall said the country will need to conduct the National HIV Week about 2 to 3 times a year, since testing rates are still currently very low, especially in rural areas. (READ: 'Stop the spread of HIV')

    More funding also needs to go into testing, and the availability of free treatment, counseling, and condoms. The health department's National HIV/STI Prevention Program has a 2015 budget of about P500 million ($11.21 million), 60% of which will go to the treatment of patients.

    With the implementation of the reproductive health (RH) law, Hall said schools must now begin giving sex education to young people at an age before they start exploring sexually.

    The national HIV prevalence in the Philippines remains low at 0.1%, but prevalence rates are "rapidly expanding" in key affected populations, such as males who have sex with males, and injecting drug users.

    "The rates have taken off, the doubling of the cases. The way in which we see more and more cases, the speed with which this is now growing, is faster than what we've seen in other countries in the world," Hall said.

    Time to act

    The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) earlier said the Philippines will not be able to meet the HIV/AIDS target in the 2015 Millennium Development Goals:

    - Halt by 2015 and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
    - Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it

    Hall said "now is the time to act" if the country wants to reduce its HIV infections like India, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, and Thailand.

    These 4 countries in Southeast Asia and Western Pacific account for a large number of people living with HIV, but they have already reduced new infections by more than 50%.

    For the Philippines, the National HIV Testing Week is a start. Hall said it was a "big success" in terms of awareness, but whether more people really got tested remains to be seen. – Rappler.com

  2. #222
    The ‘castrated’ RH budget

    By: Rina Jimenez-David

    @inquirerdotnet

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    12:32 AM January 12th, 2016

    AS IS all too common with government programs, it’s the poor—particularly poor women—who have little voice, small presence and even a lot less power, who become the biggest losers when money is scarce and there are competing claims for it.

    This seems to be the case with the P1-billion cut from the budget for the purchase of family planning supplies of the Department of Health. Reports have it that the amount was removed from the DOH budget by senators sitting in the bicameral conference committee that approved the national budget.

    I wonder if the news would have been met with the same disconcerting silence if the P1 billion was cut from defense, agriculture or even education. Is it because contraceptives are not considered “essential”? Not a necessity?

    “It is a disservice to the poor,” commented former President Fidel V. Ramos, adding his voice to a growing chorus led by Senators Pia Cayetano and Miriam Defensor Santiago who spearheaded the charge, as it were, for the passage of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law. The budget cut, of a not-minor amount, effectively castrates (if you can use such a term for a piece of repro health legislation) the program, as protesters proclaim. This is because, contrary to popular misconception, family planning supplies are not “luxuries,” but rather essential commodities, essential to the health of women, men and babies.

    Already, health commentators are saying the budget cut imperils not just family planning, but even the fight against HIV/AIDS, since condoms are part of the parcel of supplies that would have been made available by the cut. The country is facing a huge HIV/AIDS crisis, with the number of new cases, bucking a worldwide trend, increasing in these parts.

    * * *

    RAMOS added that the budget cut “will now affect the ability of the Department of Health to provide life-saving services that benefit the poor.” But the former president said a solution is at hand since it could still be remedied “by a supplemental budget by the 16th Congress and/or a more generous budget for RH by the next president and the 17th Congress.”

    Benjamin de Leon, president of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, on which FVR serves as an “eminent person,” observed that the budget has always been to “serve the poor particularly in direct-service oriented departments like the DOH, DepEd, or DSWD.” So removing such a huge amount from the DOH budget “is tantamount to reducing and limiting access to health services (for) the poor who are the biggest users and recipients of public services.” The rich, said De Leon, are unaffected because they could always afford the services they need and want. But the poor, he noted, “are hardest hit by this move that clearly lacks good judgment and better decision-making.”

    In reaction to the adverse reactions to the budget allocation, Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance, said that contrary to assertions of other senators, all information about the national budget were made available to both houses of Congress before it was enacted into law. “All senators were given a copy of the bicameral conference committee report before they voted to ratify,” said Legarda. “The first page of the report shows both the increases and decreases in the budget of all agencies including the Department of Health.”

    The process of deliberating on the budget of government departments is an annual procedure that every one of them undergoes, said Legarda. But couldn’t Legarda have taken a more proactive stance in behalf of women who will suffer the most when they lose access to contraception?

    * * *

    I DON’T know if this would have prevented the contraceptives budget cut, or even directly improve the status of Filipino women, but the year has begun with a “strong campaign”—led by some 48 governments, led by Colombia’s female ambassador to the United Nations, and by NGOs led by women experts on the UN—to elect the first woman secretary general of the UN.

    An online report explains that the “UN remains the world’s top global body for peace and security,” while the secretary general “sets and implements the UN’s priorities under agreement from member governments and is the most powerful civil servant in the world.” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s term ends in December.

    “Already there are a half dozen women actively vying for the job,” the report says. Of the official declared campaigns, four Easter European governments have put forward names; two of them women. Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, director general of Unesco, enjoys an early lead, staking out her issues as “civil and political rights, mutual respect, knowledge about each other, promotion of freedom of expression as part of peace, good governance, and human rights.”

    * * *

    ANOTHER candidate is Vesna Pusic, foreign minister of Croatia, while Western Europe has many high-level women candidates—presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers.

    Also mentioned as in the running is Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand and head of the UN Development Program. But while often mentioned as the “dream candidate,” observers say they do not think German Chancellor Angela Merkel is going to leave domestic politics at this stage.

    But governments from Latin America are also canvassing for “one of their own” as the next UN secreteray general, including Susana Malcorra, Argentina’s new foreign minister; Karen Christiana Figueres Olsen of Costa Rica, who led the “contentious” climate change negotiations; Colombia’s foreign minister Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar, who is now leading the negotiations with the FARC guerrillas; and former president and head of UN Women (and recent Philippine visitor) Michelle Bachelet.

  3. #223
    The ‘castrated’ RH budget

    By: Rina Jimenez-David

    @inquirerdotnet

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    12:32 AM January 12th, 2016

    AS IS all too common with government programs, it’s the poor—particularly poor women—who have little voice, small presence and even a lot less power, who become the biggest losers when money is scarce and there are competing claims for it.

    This seems to be the case with the P1-billion cut from the budget for the purchase of family planning supplies of the Department of Health. Reports have it that the amount was removed from the DOH budget by senators sitting in the bicameral conference committee that approved the national budget.

    I wonder if the news would have been met with the same disconcerting silence if the P1 billion was cut from defense, agriculture or even education. Is it because contraceptives are not considered “essential”? Not a necessity?

    “It is a disservice to the poor,” commented former President Fidel V. Ramos, adding his voice to a growing chorus led by Senators Pia Cayetano and Miriam Defensor Santiago who spearheaded the charge, as it were, for the passage of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law. The budget cut, of a not-minor amount, effectively castrates (if you can use such a term for a piece of repro health legislation) the program, as protesters proclaim. This is because, contrary to popular misconception, family planning supplies are not “luxuries,” but rather essential commodities, essential to the health of women, men and babies.

    Already, health commentators are saying the budget cut imperils not just family planning, but even the fight against HIV/AIDS, since condoms are part of the parcel of supplies that would have been made available by the cut. The country is facing a huge HIV/AIDS crisis, with the number of new cases, bucking a worldwide trend, increasing in these parts.

    * * *

    RAMOS added that the budget cut “will now affect the ability of the Department of Health to provide life-saving services that benefit the poor.” But the former president said a solution is at hand since it could still be remedied “by a supplemental budget by the 16th Congress and/or a more generous budget for RH by the next president and the 17th Congress.”

    Benjamin de Leon, president of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, on which FVR serves as an “eminent person,” observed that the budget has always been to “serve the poor particularly in direct-service oriented departments like the DOH, DepEd, or DSWD.” So removing such a huge amount from the DOH budget “is tantamount to reducing and limiting access to health services (for) the poor who are the biggest users and recipients of public services.” The rich, said De Leon, are unaffected because they could always afford the services they need and want. But the poor, he noted, “are hardest hit by this move that clearly lacks good judgment and better decision-making.”

    In reaction to the adverse reactions to the budget allocation, Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance, said that contrary to assertions of other senators, all information about the national budget were made available to both houses of Congress before it was enacted into law. “All senators were given a copy of the bicameral conference committee report before they voted to ratify,” said Legarda. “The first page of the report shows both the increases and decreases in the budget of all agencies including the Department of Health.”

    The process of deliberating on the budget of government departments is an annual procedure that every one of them undergoes, said Legarda. But couldn’t Legarda have taken a more proactive stance in behalf of women who will suffer the most when they lose access to contraception?

    * * *

    I DON’T know if this would have prevented the contraceptives budget cut, or even directly improve the status of Filipino women, but the year has begun with a “strong campaign”—led by some 48 governments, led by Colombia’s female ambassador to the United Nations, and by NGOs led by women experts on the UN—to elect the first woman secretary general of the UN.

    An online report explains that the “UN remains the world’s top global body for peace and security,” while the secretary general “sets and implements the UN’s priorities under agreement from member governments and is the most powerful civil servant in the world.” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s term ends in December.

    “Already there are a half dozen women actively vying for the job,” the report says. Of the official declared campaigns, four Easter European governments have put forward names; two of them women. Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, director general of Unesco, enjoys an early lead, staking out her issues as “civil and political rights, mutual respect, knowledge about each other, promotion of freedom of expression as part of peace, good governance, and human rights.”

    * * *

    ANOTHER candidate is Vesna Pusic, foreign minister of Croatia, while Western Europe has many high-level women candidates—presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers.

    Also mentioned as in the running is Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand and head of the UN Development Program. But while often mentioned as the “dream candidate,” observers say they do not think German Chancellor Angela Merkel is going to leave domestic politics at this stage.

    But governments from Latin America are also canvassing for “one of their own” as the next UN secreteray general, including Susana Malcorra, Argentina’s new foreign minister; Karen Christiana Figueres Olsen of Costa Rica, who led the “contentious” climate change negotiations; Colombia’s foreign minister Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar, who is now leading the negotiations with the FARC guerrillas; and former president and head of UN Women (and recent Philippine visitor) Michelle Bachelet.

  4. #224
    Filipino Catholic Church Continues to Fight Family Planning

    Posted on January 11, 2016 By Marilen J. Danguilan

    Three years since its historic passage, the Philippines’ landmark reproductive health act – which provides for family planning and sexual education, among other features – continues to face a series of continuing obstacles put in place by allies of the Catholic Church.

    Monkey wrench after monkey wrench has been thrown into the Department of Health’s efforts to implement the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, as the legislation is known, since it was passed as the capstone of President Benigno S. Aquino III’s presidency in 2012 after being stalled in Congress for 14 years.

    President Aquino signed the measure into law on December 21, 2012. That should have been the end of the controversies. But that was not to be. Advocates of the family planning measure RH advocates expect no letup by the church’s allies.

    The law polarized the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, with a growing 100 million population. The Catholic Church, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and their conservative political allies have been leading the attempts to thwart the law’s implementation. Previous presidents didn’t push for legislation on reproductive health because they wanted the Catholic Church on their side. It was only Aquino, a highly popular president, who bucked the trend.

    Money for contraceptives killed

    The latest hurdle is the removal last week of PHP1 billion (US$21.277 million) from the PHP3.275 billion that the Department of Health proposed for its Family Health and Responsible Parenting (FHRP) program. The funds were earmarked for the purchase of contraceptives in 2016, as the RH Law mandates.

    Despite the fact that the appropriation had been approved in both the committees and plenary assemblies of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, a bicameral committee composed of selected members of the lower house and Senate slashed the budget. The committee’s job is supposedly to merely tweak inconsistencies and harmonize conflicting aspects of bills before they become laws.

    Senator Vicente Sotto III, a member of the bicameral committee, who has long opposed the law, proposed the cut. This happened during the final phase of the budget deliberations before President Aquino signed it into law.

    Without funds to distribute free contraceptives to the poor, as the family planning law stipulates, they must rely on outside sources such as private groups and donors, Health Secretary Janet Garin said. About 7 million women with unmet family planning needs are not going to get their contraceptives as a result of the budget cut.

    To introduce such a huge slash in the budget of an executive agency’s important program is possible but highly unusual, said Rom Dongeto, Executive Director of the Philippine Legislators Conference on Population and Development. The budgetary cut should have been deliberated upon in the committees of both houses and in the plenary bodies, not in a bicameral committee conference where attendance is limited, Dongeto added.

    While 93 percent of Filipinos say they reject abortion on principle, the fact on the ground is that enormous numbers of women get them. The World Health Organization estimated in 2005 that 800,000 illegal abortions are performed every year. That is believed to have climbed by another 100,000 in the intervening decade. Some 70 percent of unwanted pregnancies end in abortion, according to the WHO, four of five of them because women can’t afford care for more children.

    Some doctors secretly perform abortions in clinics for PHP2,000-5,000, while those who can’t afford them self-induce or seek solutions from “quack doctors” – folk practioners. As many as 100,000 people end up in the hospital every year because of unsafe abortions according to the Philippine Department of Health.

  5. #225
    The cruelest cut

    @inquirerdotnet

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    02:20 AM January 14th, 2016

    It took 14 years and a tortuous struggle before the Reproductive Health Law was finally passed in 2012 despite attempts by conservative groups and the Catholic Church to derail the measure.

    But three years since its historic passage, the landmark law that provides couples an informed choice along with natural and artificial methods of family planning, as well as sex education for young people, among other features, remains in stasis, held hostage by stalling tactics by its opponents—from charges of being unconstitutional to petitions against some contraceptives claimed to be “abortifacients.”

    Despite the longstanding resistance to the RH Law, recent news that Senators Loren Legarda and Tito Sotto had maneuvered to lop off P1 billion from the RH fund came as an unpleasant surprise, the cruel cut described as “shocking, immoral and ill-timed.” Well, “well-timed” might be the better description, it being an election year when courting the (unproven) Catholic vote wouldn’t hurt.

    After all, Church leaders are known to conveniently ignore the biblical admonition to “render unto Caesar…” How else explain their hoisting tarps outside a Bacolod church in the 2013 elections, branding pro-RH candidates as members of “Team Patay” (Team of Death)? And Church leaders say only natural family planning is acceptable, never mind that most impoverished women—those most in need of protection—are trapped in violent situations where the choice is often sex or domestic abuse from partners for whom reasoning is an alien concept.

    The budget cut of P1 billion denies these women (and impoverished couples) access to medically safe, nonabortifacient and effective RH services and commodities, because the fund was earmarked by the Department of Health for free supplies of condoms, IUDs and birth control pills.

    Sotto, who opposes the RH Law, had proposed the cut, citing the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order but callously ignoring that the TRO covers only certain hormonal contraceptives. For her part, Legarda denied sneaking in the cut in the budget deliberations as chair of the Senate finance committee, saying that all information about the national budget was made available to both chambers of Congress before it was enacted into law. She said part of the money would go to the air defense needs of the military, with China’s increasing presence in disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea, and to some education projects.

    Still, the RH Law’s main authors, Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Pia Cayetano, find the fund cut “unacceptable,” and point out that the lack of funding would render the law “inutile.” Indeed.

    “The P1-billion budget cut threatens to deprive some seven million women of [RH] services. This abandonment is immoral in a country where some 200 out of 100,000 women who give birth die,” Santiago said.

    The cut would also mean depending on private and foreign donors for contraceptive supplies—a possibility that is unsustainable and would resurrect the charges of “contraceptive imperialism” initially raised by the law’s critics.

    What is particularly galling is that Legarda has always described herself as prowomen and proenvironment. As a green advocate, she should have made the connection between the environment and the impact of a runaway population on the planet’s dwindling resources; she should have figured out how a huge carbon footprint could drain the gains made in reining in global warming and climate change.

    Legarda has defended the budget cut as a response to the low (29 percent) use of the family planning program’s budget of P3.27 billion in 2015, with 71 percent, or P2.3 billion, still to be obligated for the next six months. These remaining funds are still available in 2016 and could augment deficient resources, she said.

    Well and good, so it must be asked: Why did the DOH use up only 29 percent of funds appropriated for the program? What tedious processes have delayed full implementation of the three-year-old law, and what measures can speed them up?

    Imagine what was lost: in the words of a UN Population Fund official, “important investments on comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care … to achieve a more educated and healthy population, a more productive workforce and a growing economy.”

  6. #226
    The cruelest cut

    @inquirerdotnet

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    02:20 AM January 14th, 2016

    It took 14 years and a tortuous struggle before the Reproductive Health Law was finally passed in 2012 despite attempts by conservative groups and the Catholic Church to derail the measure.

    But three years since its historic passage, the landmark law that provides couples an informed choice along with natural and artificial methods of family planning, as well as sex education for young people, among other features, remains in stasis, held hostage by stalling tactics by its opponents—from charges of being unconstitutional to petitions against some contraceptives claimed to be “abortifacients.”

    Despite the longstanding resistance to the RH Law, recent news that Senators Loren Legarda and Tito Sotto had maneuvered to lop off P1 billion from the RH fund came as an unpleasant surprise, the cruel cut described as “shocking, immoral and ill-timed.” Well, “well-timed” might be the better description, it being an election year when courting the (unproven) Catholic vote wouldn’t hurt.

    After all, Church leaders are known to conveniently ignore the biblical admonition to “render unto Caesar…” How else explain their hoisting tarps outside a Bacolod church in the 2013 elections, branding pro-RH candidates as members of “Team Patay” (Team of Death)? And Church leaders say only natural family planning is acceptable, never mind that most impoverished women—those most in need of protection—are trapped in violent situations where the choice is often sex or domestic abuse from partners for whom reasoning is an alien concept.

    The budget cut of P1 billion denies these women (and impoverished couples) access to medically safe, nonabortifacient and effective RH services and commodities, because the fund was earmarked by the Department of Health for free supplies of condoms, IUDs and birth control pills.

    Sotto, who opposes the RH Law, had proposed the cut, citing the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order but callously ignoring that the TRO covers only certain hormonal contraceptives. For her part, Legarda denied sneaking in the cut in the budget deliberations as chair of the Senate finance committee, saying that all information about the national budget was made available to both chambers of Congress before it was enacted into law. She said part of the money would go to the air defense needs of the military, with China’s increasing presence in disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea, and to some education projects.

    Still, the RH Law’s main authors, Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Pia Cayetano, find the fund cut “unacceptable,” and point out that the lack of funding would render the law “inutile.” Indeed.

    “The P1-billion budget cut threatens to deprive some seven million women of [RH] services. This abandonment is immoral in a country where some 200 out of 100,000 women who give birth die,” Santiago said.

    The cut would also mean depending on private and foreign donors for contraceptive supplies—a possibility that is unsustainable and would resurrect the charges of “contraceptive imperialism” initially raised by the law’s critics.

    What is particularly galling is that Legarda has always described herself as prowomen and proenvironment. As a green advocate, she should have made the connection between the environment and the impact of a runaway population on the planet’s dwindling resources; she should have figured out how a huge carbon footprint could drain the gains made in reining in global warming and climate change.

    Legarda has defended the budget cut as a response to the low (29 percent) use of the family planning program’s budget of P3.27 billion in 2015, with 71 percent, or P2.3 billion, still to be obligated for the next six months. These remaining funds are still available in 2016 and could augment deficient resources, she said.

    Well and good, so it must be asked: Why did the DOH use up only 29 percent of funds appropriated for the program? What tedious processes have delayed full implementation of the three-year-old law, and what measures can speed them up?

    Imagine what was lost: in the words of a UN Population Fund official, “important investments on comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care … to achieve a more educated and healthy population, a more productive workforce and a growing economy.”


 
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