Press Release
September 10, 2020

Transcript of Senator Pia Cayetano's Interpellation
DBCC briefing - Second Day
10 Sept. 2020

Sen. Pia: Thank you, Mr. Chair, to the secretaries, and all my colleagues.

Actually it's brief. I just want to go into a little detail of all the things that I brought up yesterday. In response to my request that the agencies are asked to report on sustainable goals, Secretary Avisado reiterated that the administration is fully supportive of this. And I fully thank him for that.

But I'd like to direct it to Sec. Karl that we specifically sent a memo to them to specifically report the targets. Because they are very specific targets. And in my hearing in the Committee on SDGs, they didn't even have enough budget to do those studies, to do the benchmarking. So how can they even make these kinds of reports if they do not even know their benchmarks.

So for example, if you're talking about air quality, magre-report ka ng ganito... eh hindi mo naman naman alam yung pinanggalingan mo. You don't know kung nag-improve ka or kung nag-decline ka. So, that's what I wanted to be sure that they're doing. And then we do have a problem with the budget on that.

So on that note, let me go to my next point so that the secretaries can just respond at one time. Secretary Avisado, I also recognize exactly what you said that the objective is really to approach this pandemic in a sustainable manner, to recover properly, and as Secretary Dominguez mentioned, we are looking at the future of the next generation.

However, I need to point out that sadly, certain amendments I made in the budget for 2020 were realigned. I understand that decisions have to be made, and they are not easy decisions. But I just want to point them out because these amendments were very specific to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And one was creating a subcommittee in DBCC for SDGs, an SDG subcommittee. I don't mind if it is the good Secretary's opinion that it is not necessary, but I wanted the team under you, Mr. Secretary, to be familiar with... may ganung committee para aware sila, it's top of mind.

And the reason why this is so important is there is no one agency. But it is NEDA basically, medyo policy direction lang si NEDA. But budgetarily, I wanted DBCC to be in coordination with NEDA overseeing all the overlapping concerns of the environment agency... That one is the most obvious to explain because the quality of healthcare is directly related to the quality of air. So there are so many overlapping agencies...

There are so many overlapping concerns that I need DBCC to be familiar with. And that is why I had requested, I made that amendment. Unfortunately, the budget was realigned. So I am just pointing that out.

Another thing is, we always talk about the importance of research, of innovation. And the honorable secretaries confirmed that that is our direction. In fact, in the CREATE Bill, meron talaga tayong... we acknowledged that we will support innovation and all that. The very little funding that I had also made for SDG research in CHED was removed. Napakaliit lang nun, if I am not mistaken, parang P10 million yata. Maliit lang yun eh tapos na realign pa yun. Sino pang gagawa ng research? The teachers, the professors could be going in, maybe the graduate students could be doing this, eh natanggal ho yung budget.

So I know we all have our advocacies, but I just want to point this out because this is directly... All the international experts and our local experts from DAP, from CHED will tell us that the big [audio cut] for recovery is just sticking to the SDGs. And we're on our way to recovery. So I wanted to express that.

On that note, I am very happy to note that another amendment I made, which I have been trying to make for 10 years, Mr. Chair, is budget for plantilla positions in DSWD that will allow them to take care of the most vulnerable. When we say the most vulnerable, we normally... the Secretary of DSWD will confirm that their staffing is almost consumed by disaster risk management. So kapag may calamity, what happens is the most vulnerable - the children, the elderly - sa totoo lang napapabayaan sila kasi parang hindi sila disaster mode. So the budgetary amendment that I made to create this, that one was not realigned. And I am so happy because 10 years ko nang pinaglalaban yun.

So these are positions that will allow dedicated staff on the adoption of children that need to be adopted. Na-standstill ang adoption natin because of COVID, wala daw nag-aasikaso sa DSWD. It's children without mothers, without fathers, tapos hindi man lang maasikaso ang paperwork nila. But we have now tried to address that, and the plantilla positions are there. So I am very grateful for that, Secretary Avisado.

Which brings me to my next point on Philhealth... One thing I also wanted to point out, which is in my separate opinion, which I will give the secretaries a copy of - the Committee of the Whole report - is that we need to ensure that there are specific positions, dedicated positions for the technical people who are doing the technical work. Like the case rating, one thing that will greatly solve itong problema on upcasing is implementing what is in the Universal Health Care law called the outpatient service. Basic naman yun, we all understand. Outpatient means you will go to a doctor, bibigyan ka ng gamot, hindi ka kailangan magpa-ospital. Walang ganun in the previous years. Ngayon the law says, two years from implementation, dapat andyan na. We have to ensure may budget yan.

So I mentioned that aligned with Sen. Bong's question, but similar, yung analogy na ginawa natin sa DSWD na kailangan may budget yan na tutukan ang mga technical aspects, at wala dapat silang ibang assignment. While they're doing this, itong case rating, and a lot of our technical things, may mga iba pang assigment. So hindi nila nagagawa ang trabaho. I bring this to the attention of the Dept. of Finance because you also sit on the board of Philhealth. And this is something that needs to be attended to.

One very last point, sustainability. SDG 12 is about production and consumption. And we are doing a lot on that, our NGOs... and we have been responding. Our young people are very much familiar with this issue. When we talk about the purchase of PPEs, I do believe... because it was [audio cut] for PPEs for hospitals. However, a big chunk of LGUs and personal budget are also going to the purchase of surgical masks. Surgical masks are not required for the public. Only frontliners in the hospitals or maybe a barangay official that has to always be out there, chine-check yung mga bahay, are the only ones who need to wear surgical masks or N95. The rest are okay with cloth masks. So when we talk about sustainability, cloth mask lang. If there can be an order for all government offices, cloth mask lang ang gamitin niyo. Unless may sakit ka, inuubo ka, well in the first place, dapat hindi ka pumasok. So cloth masks are okay and if we can make a program on that, provide livelihood, and it can decrease dramatically our basura, our problem with the wastes that are not reusable and recyclable kasi may plastic yang mga surgical masks.

So that's it, Mr. Chair. May we hear from our resource persons? Thank you very much.

Budget Sec. Wendel Avisado: Yes, Senator Pia. On your concerns on forming a subcommittee in the DBCC, we have that already, Senator Pia. It was created last year, and it was chaired by NEDA, precisely to link planning and budgeting related to the SDG implementation. And the funding for researches related to this concern is now being sourced out by NEDA from existing and available budgets to operationalize this DBCC subcommittee.

On the matter of the items that were moved from the savings to Bayanihan 1, lahat po ng mga projects na naisama ho roon ay hindi DBM ang nagdecide noon. We wrote the secretaries and asked them, 'Which of the projects aligned for this year are you willing to submit to us to form part of the pooled savings precisely to respond to the requirements of Bayanihan 1?'

So, hindi po DBM ang nagdecide po which of these projects are going to be part of it. Ito pong isinusog, ito po ay ibinigay ng mga department secretaries, ito po ang kunin ninyo. And therefore, gusto lang po namin linawin 'yan dahil para bagang ang DBM lang ang may decision. Hindi po. We always consult our colleagues in the Cabinet which among your projects lined up for this year will form part of the reprogrammed, realigned, discontinued, among many others.

Doon naman po sa DSWD, we're closely coordinating with them and they are still finalizing the final composition of the level of the organizational structure para po mabilis ang gawain nila. And we are constantly in contact with them with respect to all of these requirements, particularly with the organizational structure and staffing order, your honor. Doon po sa last item niyo po, perhaps Sec. Karl can respond to that.

NEDA Sec. Karl Chua: Senator Pia, may I just clarify the last item?

Sec. Avisado: Mukhang PhilHealth po yata 'yan Senator Pia. If I may, the matter is a management issue of PhilHealth po. Ang nakarating sa amin, whatever kind of adjustments in their organizational structure to address issues and concerns, you know affecting so much their operations, nakahanda naman po kaming tugunan 'yung pangangailangan po nila. We would like to assure you that just as they have a new leadership there, and whatever is being touted as the most effective way of improving their system, susuportahan po natin 'yan sa level ng DBM po pagdating sa organizational structure and staffing pattern nila po.

Sen. Pia: Actually, Mr. Chair, I was just... For the [audio cut] All I was saying was that the economic team, I believe that many of your offices... In fact i think it was the Secretary... I don't know what provisions we have on it... Sit on the board. So that was the only point I was making. Your offices sit on the board and so I am bringing to your attention that when you review [audio cut] of Philhealth... When Philhealth as a body comes to Congress for an additional funding, I want to be sure that you are cognizant of the fact that the outpatient provision in the Universal Health Care law needs to be implemented. And since it's a new program, you might say, "Ah bago naman yan let's put it aside," I'm putting on record that it is an important component of the whole picture because it will address a lot of the fraudulent cases of upcasing.

I can talk about it more, now is not the time... And just a quick response, Secretary, thank you so much. I appreciate it na nandun naman pala ang mga budgetary requirements ko that's why there is no need to approve it. Sec. Karl, make sure na may research fund ka kasi sabi ni Sec. Wendel the research is up to you. So I just wanted to be sure that that research is done because all the agencies that I've talked to would tell me they have no funding to do the benchmarking for all these SDGs.

So yun lang, I leave it at that. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Sec. Chua: We certainly agree that we need to do these studies and evaluation. We do have some funds but we will have to of course discuss with DBM how to prioritize given the amount that was approved by the DBM. Thank you.

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