Sept. 26, 8:41 p.m. – NINE YOUNG congressmen have declared opposition to the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, arguing that the proposed P3-billion annual budget for RH programs is not the answer to poverty.

In a statement, the lawmakers from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao said the funds should instead be used for education, livelihood, and healthcare service.

The congressmen who signed the statement were Dakila Carlo Cua of the lone district of Quirino, Allan Velasco of the lone district of Marinduque, Rachel Marguerite del Mar of the first district of Cebu, Fatima Aliah Dimaporo of the second district of Lanao del Norte, Lucy Torres-Gomez of the fourth district of Leyte, Karlo Alexei Nograles of the first district of Davao City, Gabriel Quisumbing of the sixth district of Cebu, and Irwin Tieng and Mariano Michael Velarde, Jr. of Buhay Partylist.

The development comes amid budget cuts in education being proposed by the Aquino administration for next year’s budget, which has drawn criticism from state universities and militant groups.

The group of legislators, called “9YL,” said the proposed fund for the RH bill could be used for education, particularly in solving problems such as classroom shortages, the lack of teachers, and the low number of graduates.

“The proposed Php 3-billion appropriation for the RH bill, if put towards education, can help secure the future of young Filipinos. That amount can build 4,644 new classrooms, enough to wipe out classroom shortage in the provinces of Batangas, Cebu, Nueva Ecija, South Cotabato, and Valenzuela City,” the statement said.

Moreover, the fund could be used for livelihood programs, transportation for the agriculture sector, and micro-lending for small businesses, they said.

“The proposed Php 3-billion appropriation for the RH bill, if put towards jobs development, can give our people the opportunities they need for financial stability. That amount can sponsor the work skills training of 214,285 Filipinos, giving them the means to earn better livelihoods,” the statement said.

The legislators also said that the money could be used for eradicating malnutrition among the youth, food for families, and PhilHealth assistance for more Filipinos.

“That amount can be used to provide PhilHealth coverage, ensuring the security and well-being of 2.5 million poor families; that is 53.2% of all families who can’t afford the premiums,” the statement said.

Population is not a problem, the lawmakers said.

“We see it as an opportunity. Cities like New York, Hong Kong and Singapore have some of the highest population densities; they are living and breathing proof that large populations, when empowered by opportunity and reliable governance, are assets to economic growth. What we need to do is enforce sound economic policies, fight corruption effectively, and invest in helping people pull themselves out of poverty,” the 9YL statement said. G. K. S. Estella


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