Press Release
May 18, 2011

Costs, funding unclear
RH debate should include a 'price tag'

The national debate on enacting a law on reproductive health (RH) is not only a moral or religious one but also an issue of funding or budget.

Sen. Ralph G. Recto yesterday asked major proponents of the RH bill to make a 'cost analysis' on how much the proposed law would burden the national government, local government units (LGUs) and even the private sector.

"There's obviously a price tag for this bill. There are costs involved and no one seems to be talking about it," Recto, Senate ways and means chairman, said.

"Ultimately, before we discuss about the 'birds and bees', let's talk about the fees," he added.

Recto said surely billions of taxpayers' money would be needed yearly to bankroll the RH bill and ensure its effective implementation once enacted into law.

He said costs would entail "guaranteeing universal access to medically safe, legal, affordable, effective and quality RH care services, methods, devices, supplies and relevant information and education."

"It's impossible to push for this bill without knowing the costs and where the funds would be sourced. Let's be clear when we legislate something," he stressed.

Recto said the preparation and production of politically correct "relevant scientific information materials" that would be disseminated by the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and Department of Health (DOH) would involve "staggering costs" not to mention the logistical requirement to deploy them.

The senator also said it's possible that contributions of both employers and employees to PhilHealth, Government Service Insurance System and Social Security System would increase as a result of compliance to the soon-to-be passed law.

He noted that under the proposed measure, the delivery of RH services such as the provision of modern family methods, devices and supplies to poor families would be funded by PhilHealth, national government (NG) and LGUs.

Recto said private employers will also have to cough up money to support the RH law such as making available health care facilities and services such as contraceptives and sexual dysfunction treatment to all their employees.

"So instead of 'conditional cash transfers (CCT)', employers from time to time would give out 'conditional condom transfers' or hold "Viagra nights" in exchange for increased productivity?" he asked.

LGUs, meanwhile, are mandated to pick up the tab along with the national government in the rolling out of RH services like "information, care and supplies" including medicines aside from hiring midwives to man birthing centers.

Recto said another possible cost is the additional pork barrel needed to finance the acquisition of mobile health clinics/vans for each congressional district that would deliver RH supplies and services to their constituents as mandated in the proposed law.

"Where are we going to take the money from? Would this mean more pork barrel, higher LGU taxes and higher contributions to PhilHealth, GSIS and SSS?" the senator said.

Recto said the earmarking of the budgets of the DOH for its family planning program and that of the Commission on Population (POPCOM) as initial outlay for the RH law, which amounts to a measly P3 billion, would not be enough.

"There are so many unfunded laws. We don't need another one," he stressed.

The senator nevertheless said he agrees with most of the content of proposed bill but has strong reservations over the other provisions, which he said should be "taken away" or be subjected to refinements.

But Recto said who could argue against a law that empowers women in general, upholds their right over their bodies and ensures their safety and healthcare when they're pregnant and giving birth.

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