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A fourth committee of the House of Representatives has endorsed House Bill 5043 or the proposed “Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2008” principally authored by Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman.

The Committee on Rules approved today the plenary consideration of the controversial bill which mandates government to provide information and services on all forms of family planning and allocate adequate funds for the reproductive health program.

The Presidential approval of the P1.227 trillion 2008 General Appropriations Act with minimal direct item vetoes is a reaffirmation of the Executive-Legislative common agenda of providing adequate basic social services and enhancing infrastructure development.

It also signifies the Executive’s guarded concurrence with the congressional thrusts on non-confrontational debt service reduction policy and accelerated impartial stress on reproductive health and population management.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. is mistaken when he accused Malacañang of deliberately delaying the approval of the 2008 General Appropriations Act (GAA) even as it is publicly known that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is scheduled to sign tomorrow, 11 March 2008, the annual budget law.

Only 12 days have elapsed since the enrolled bill on the national budget was received by Malacañang on 27 February 2008 after it was signed by Senate President Manuel Villar on 26 February 2008, six days after Speaker Prospero Norgales signed the budget bill on 20 February 2008, which was transmitted to the Senate on the same day.

The appropriations for congressional districts and senatorial constituencies traditionally labeled as “pork barrel” are relatively small and cannot compensate, even if they are scrapped, for the much larger revenue loss in the event the VAT on oil is suspended.

Scrapping these allocations would mean more indigent patients not getting free medical assistance, more students deprived of scholarships, more rural folk denied of livelihood support, more people without potable water and electricity and more unemployed because of fewer infrastructure projects.

The P3.9-B net increase in the annual budget of DPWH is not a “pork barrel” insertion but an appropriation for priority locally-funded projects which were overlooked or not included in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) submitted by the President to Congress.

This clarification is being made to correct the headline of the news account which appeared in the Philippine Star yesterday (12 January 2008) reading “Pork barrel padded by P4 B, not P13.6 B, says Lagman”.