Press Release
September 28, 2019

Sen. Kiko bats for fixed allowance for front-liners barangay health workers

MANILA -- As various disease outbreaks increasingly challenge the country's health care system, front-liner barangay health workers should be included in the list of barangay officials who receive a fixed allowance, Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan said Saturday.

"Pangunahin ang kalusugan sa pamilyang Pilipino, lalo na ngayong bumabalik ulit ang mga maiiwasang mga sakit na mga sanggol at bata ang napipinsala. Sa barangay health worker umaasa ang maraming di nakakapunta sa ospital o doktor, lalo na yung mga nasa mga malalayong lugar (Health is a priority for the Filipino family, especially in these times when preventable diseases that harm babies and children are back. Many who can't go to the hospital and doctor, especially those in remote areas, rely on the barangay health worker)," Pangilinan said.

Over the past year, the country has been visited by a series of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, dengue, and polio. Cases of another vaccine-preventable disease, diphtheria, have been confirmed by the Department of Health recently.

"Ang mga barangay health worker ang pangunahing nangangalaga sa kalusugan sa mga komunidad. Nasa front-line talaga (Barangay health workers are the primary health-care providers in communities. They're really in the front-line)," the senator added, enumerating their services that include maternal, newborn, and child healthcare; health and nutrition education; family planning services; and promotion of good hygiene and sanitation practices. In barangay health centers, they assist and support to physicians, nurses, and midwives.

In Senate Bill 261, Pangilinan seeks to amend the Local Government Code -- and effectively Republic Acts 6942 (Increasing Insurance Benefits of Local Government Officials Act of 1990), and 7883 (Barangay Health Workers Benefits and Incentives Act of 1995) -- to expand the coverage of benefits and incentives for barangay officials to include barangay health workers, who provide health-care services and serve as health educators.

"Sa panukalang ito, bibigyan ang mga barangay health workers ng mga benepisyo at insentibong tulad ng sa ibang barangay officials (In this measure, barangay health workers will enjoy the same benefits and incentives as other barangay officials)," he said of the almost 200,000 barangay health workers (government figures as of 2009).

Republic Act 7883 defines barangay health workers as those who have been trained and accredited and who voluntarily renders health-care services in accordance with guidelines of the Department of Health.

The same law enumerates their rights to include being entitled to hazard and subsistence allowance, training programs, civil service eligibility, free legal services, and access to loan services.

However, the law has not provided a fixed rate for their allowances, and local government units vary in the rates and benefits they provide. As a result, many become underpaid and receive far less than what their other counterparts get.

"The law is already 24 years old, pero wala pa ring fixed rate para sa allowance nila. Hindi pa rin pantay-pantay ang natatanggap ng ating mga barangay health worker sa bansa (There is still no fixed rate for their allowances. There is still no uniformity to what the country's barangay health workers receive)," said Pangilinan.

Front-line vs diseases

Senate Bill 261 has been filed to enhance the benefits and incentives of barangay health workers in recognition of their important role and work, especially during disease outbreaks and calamities.

Senator Nancy Binay filed a similar version of this bill in the 17th Congress.

Pangilinan said ensuring remuneration of barangay health workers is part of the vision to provide universal health-care access to all Filipinos. He said it is also consistent with the government's duty to protect and promote the health of its citizens.

"Front-liner ang barangay health workers sa laban para sa kalusugan, pero kulelat naman sa benefits at incentives. Pag maayos ang kalagayan nila, mas aayos ang kalusugan nating lahat (Barangay health workers are our front-liners for health, but they are behind in benefits and incentives. When their work conditions are OK, our health conditions will be better)," said Pangilinan.

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