Press Release
June 25, 2009

Pia: "First flu-related death should remind House leadership
that there are more important things than Con-Ass"

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today said the first A(H1N1)-related death in the country should serve as a grim reminder to the leadership of the House of Representatives of the gravity of this health issue and other urgent problems affecting the country.

"The first flu-related death should remind the House leadership that there are more important things than Con-Ass," said Cayetano, Chair of the Senate Committee on Social Justice.

The lady senator earlier warned of walkouts and boycotts by senators and independent-minded House members should the House leadership insist on convening a constituent assembly at Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's ninth State of the Nation Address (SONA).

"Mrs. Arroyo's ninth, and constitutionally her last SONA should zero in on the economic crisis and tackle emergent problems such as the public health emergency caused by the spread of the A(H1N1) virus."

"Even ordinary Filipinos know the real problems of our country, and this administration should know better than getting involved in immoral and illegal moves to force Con-Ass."

"Soon, we would also have to face the long-term effects of A(H1N1) on the economy, the educational system, and the need to upgrade our public health system to better respond to community health emergencies and old problems in the delivery of basic healthcare."

She noted that with or without the influenza scare, the economy is already headed towards rough times amid the world economic downturn. Both the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have projected the economy to fall into outright recession this year, she added.

"This could mean that jobs and livelihood opportunities will be scarce and more families will be driven to hunger and poverty. A contracting economy also means the government will face more difficulties raising revenues which, in return, would adversely affect the delivery of badly needed services like health and education."

"What has happened to the so-called economic stimulus package being bandied about when the P1.4-trillion budget for 2009 was approved? How far has this fund helped the local economy weather the effects of the global financial crisis? These are urgent questions on people's minds that the SONA should answer."

Cayetano has consistently been pushing to prioritize the country's commitments to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the President's annual SONA and Congress' deliberations on the yearly national government budget.

She said government resources should be specifically earmarked to keep track of these goals, particularly to improve maternal health (MDG No.5), reduce child mortality (MDG No.4) and achieve universal primary education (MDG No.2) -- indicators which experts say the Philippines is unlikely to meet by 2015.

She noted that the Philippines only allots a budget equivalent to 2 to 3 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for health services, which is way below the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) that developing countries should a lot at least 5 percent of their GDP for health.

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