Press Release
October 10, 2020

Bong Go supports proposed 2021 DOH budget; stresses country cannot afford a reenacted budget especially with ongoing pandemic

Stressing the need to improve the country's healthcare system, Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography Christopher "Bong" Go has expressed his full support for the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Health. He also emphasized that the government, particularly the health sector, cannot afford to operate on a re-enacted budget next year while there is still an ongoing pandemic.

"Now, more than ever, we need to focus our spending on health. With this considered, we cannot afford to have a re-enacted budget next year. Hindi po talaga puwede. We cannot just operate on a budget next fiscal year that is unresponsive to our current crisis," Go said during a public hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Finance on Friday, October 9.

Go said that he supports the approval of sufficient funds for the DOH as it has been the forefront agency in the country's battle against COVID-19.

"As Chairman of the Committee on Health, I have thoroughly reviewed the proposed budget for health. Thus, I emphasize that we must ensure that we have enough budget for the procurement of PPEs, masks and COVID-19 test kits, enough for the appropriate compensation of our health workers at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19 and enough to further augment the operation of our government hospitals," he said.

Go, however, lamented the decrease in the budget for Epidemiology and Surveillance, and Quick Response Fund of the DOH, especially with the current health crisis.

"The decreases in the budget are lamentable considering that these two line items are used in our response to the pandemic," he said.

"One is for accurate and timely health information, and the other is for health emergency response. I call on the committee to look into this matter at tututukan rin po natin ito," he added.

He also urged the committee to find ways to ensure sufficient funding for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) of the DOH as it is needed, especially this pandemic.

"I also observed that the programmed budget for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program will decrease to P4.8 billion next year from P8.4 billion this year. The programmed appropriations will just be for equipment. Although there is another P5.5 billion for infrastructure, this is lodged under the Unprogrammed Fund, ibig sabihin wala pa pong pondo," Go noted.

"The funding for this should not be on standby. These infrastructure projects should be prioritized. We should find a way to ensure that the funding for our health facilities, kailangan natin 'yan ngayong pandemya para siguradong may sapat na kapasidad ang tatakbuhang ospital ng ating mga kababayan," he added.

Go also emphasized the need to ensure that enough funds will be allocated for the procurement of the vaccine against COVID-19 once it becomes available in the market.

"Based on the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte, the national government shall vaccinate twenty million Filipinos as a priority. To do this, I urge the Committee on Finance to consider increasing the budget for the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccine," Go said.

The proposed budget of the DOH has P2.5 billion for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine to be provided to 3.8 million Filipinos.

"Mukhang hindi po ito sapat para mabakunahan lahat ng mga kababayan natin, lalo na ang mga mahihirap at nasa vulnerable sector. Kapag dumating ang panahon na mayroon nang vaccine at gamot laban sa COVID-19, hindi dapat natin pabayaan ang mga mahihirap, unahin po natin sila," Go stressed.

"Kailangan na natin maghanda ngayon palang. Hindi lang dapat ang may kaya sa buhay ang makikinabang at makakakuha ng una dito sa vaccine," he added.

While he supports the proposed budget of DOH, Go urged DOH to give medical frontliners what is due to them.

"Let me remind the DOH officials, nakikiusap po ako sa inyo. Kung ano po 'yung due sa ating frontliners natin sa mga doctors, kung ano po 'yung nakasaad sa batas na dapat ay i-compensate sila, huwag niyo na pong patagalin," Go asked.

"Huwag niyo na pong patulugin po. Huwag na nating pahirapan pa, iyon lang po ang pakiusap ko sa inyo sa lahat ng mga opisyales diyan sa DOH," he added.

Go also emphasized the need to provide enough funding for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine given its crucial role in addressing the pandemic.

"Hindi natin akalain na ang RITM ay ang isa sa pinaka-importanteng opisina dito sa pandemyang ito... But even then, as the sponsor of the DOH budget (last year), I pushed for the increase of RITM's proposed budget. We made the right decision, and with the support of my colleagues, we increased the budget of RITM to P223.7 million," Go explained.

"Ano na lang kaya po kung hindi natin na-increase ang budget ng RITM? Mas lalo tayong mabibigla dahil RITM ang unang nagkaroon ng kapasidad to test," he added.

Go also emphasized that the government needs to ensure the proper implementation of the Universal Health Care Act.

"Napaka-importante po niyan, lalo na sa kinakaharap nating krisis ngayon... Hindi natin dapat hayaan na dumating ang panahon na tatanggihan ang pasyente sa ospital dahil wala na tayong pondo. Let us give the needed funding to fully implement the Universal Health Care Act," he added.

Ending his statement, he said that the goal of the health budget "must be not only to overcome this pandemic and defeat COVID-19, but also to be more prepared for, and more responsive to any other health crisis that may come in the future."

"Kung kulang ang budget para sa mga pangangailangan natin para tugunan ang COVID-19, dapat dagdagan pa natin ito," he said.

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