Popcom exec: Cut in DOH budget could impact family planning program in Normin

Mar. 10, 2020

Jeremias Gupit (center), Commission on Population-10 regional director, discusses a point with reporters during a press conference on the observance of the International Women’s Month held Monday (March 9). With Gupit are lawyer Pilipinas Palma (right), Commission on Human Rights-10 legal officer, and Estrella Pahalla (left), assistant regional director of Department of Labor and Employment-10. (Jigger J. Jerusalem/davaotoday.com)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – A cut in the budget of the Department of Health (DOH) intended for the purchase of a new type of contraceptive could mean lesser access for women to reproductive health services in Northern Mindanao, a government official said.

According to Jeremias Gupit, Popcom-10 regional director, around P200 million was slashed from DOH’s supplemental budget for 2020.

The said amount is not part of the P10.6 billion DOH budget cut by Congress.

Gupit said the amount was intended for the procurement of the contraceptive called progestin subdermal implant (PSI). A portion of the amount would have gone to the region, he said.

Northern Mindanao has about 613,836 women of reproductive age, from its projected population of 5.5 million, he said.

The health department has apportioned only 800 pieces of Implanon NXT, a brand of PSI, for Northern Mindanao for this year, the lowest allocation among the regions, he said.

Gupit also said their stock of the PSI is only good for two to three months.

After that, he said, Popcom-10 will run out of PSIs and that would deprive thousands of women.

“Our progestin subdermal implant will only last until June. Beyond that, we can no longer provide it to our clients,” Gupit told reporters during the Popcom-10 press conference Monday afternoon.

He said it would have an impact on the married women in the region as PSI has become a popular family planning method in the region.

Due to the limited number of PSIs, Gupit said they have rationed it to the region’s 88 municipalities, distributing a meager 20 Implanon NXT pieces per rural health facility.

Because of the budget cut, he said, the government has failed to give people a wide range of contraceptive choices.

Lawyer Pilipinas Palma, Commission on Human Rights-10 (CHR-10) legal officer, said this deprivation of basic services is another violation of the Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women Act of 2009, especially on reproductive health.

“Why was the budget cut? We will continue to advocate for the implementation of the Magna Carta of Women,” Palma said.

She said the CHR has been designated as the “gender ombud,” which monitors any enforcement of laws on the promotion of rights of women and children.

Palma said the CHR-10 has already documented Popcom-10’s budget concerns to their central office for proper action.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education-10 (Deped-10) noted that there were reported 586 cases of pregnancies among high school students from June to December 2019.

“That is like three teenage student pregnancies each day,” said Dr. Myra Yee, Deped-10 medical officer, adding that the figure is already alarming since these students are minors and their bodies are not yet fully developed for childbearing.

She said there are 1.3 million elementary and high school students enrolled in 2,500 public and private schools in the region.

Of these, 307,900 are junior high school students and 72,542 senior high studying in public schools.

“We are losing precious teenagers who could have had a bright future,” Yee said.

Among the biggest factors for these pregnancies is the heavy influence of the internet and social media, she said.

Yee said the easy access of students to the internet “plays a pivotal role why these students are into early sexual encounters.”

Other factors are human nature, vices, peer pressure or influence, broken family, environment, and economic conditions. (davaotoday.com)

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