Press Release
May 27, 2021

Bong Go reiterates urgent need for the Senate to act on local hospital bills; says national government must step in to assist LGUs struggling to provide adequate health services

On Tuesday, May 25, Senator and Senate Committee on Health chair Christopher "Bong" Go reiterated his appeal for the passage of local hospital bills which are aimed at improving and establishing public hospitals in different parts of the country.

Responding to the concerns earlier raised by Minority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon, Go said that the need for these local hospital measures take precedence over some policy concerns given that the country is still in a public health emergency.

"I am fully aware of the Supreme Court ruling on the Mandanas case and its implications on the tax allocation for both the national government and the local government units," said Go, referring to doctrine which clarifies the Internal Revenue Allotment LGUs must receive.

"Having said this. I also believe that the bills we are discussing today take precedence over these policy concerns because we should remember we are still in a public health emergency. We are in a health crisis," he added.

He said that some LGUs have been coming to the national government for aid, prompting the latter to step in now rather than rely on local government units to take the cudgels.

"In fact, last year, the national government had to assist LGUs by providing all cities and municipalities a financial subsidy equivalent to their one-month IRA, and all provinces equivalent to half month IRA," said Go.

"This was to help LGUs to respond more effectively to the needs of their constituents and help the national government implement measures to overcome the COVID-19 crisis," he added.

The Senator, however, said that he is willing to set aside for now the two bills up for renationalization of hospitals while awaiting the direction of the Executive Branch on the implementation of the Mandanas ruling. Even so, Go expressed his concern for those LGUs that require the bills to address the concerns of their local healthcare systems.

"But you know, for me, kung hindi na kaya ng LGU ngayon, dapat pa rin natin silang tulungan ngayon. Hindi ko naman po ito ipagpipilitan sa ngayon," said Go.

As for the other local measures, Go explained the need to pass bills upgrading Department of Health-operated hospitals so that funding for the upgrade can be included in the preparations of the 2022 national budget. He added that the implementation of the measures will be in phases, alleviating some of the burden in the first year.

"Wala rin naman sigurong problema kung magdadagdag tayo ng medical personnel sa mga ospital na ito. Ngayon nga, nagkakaroon tayo ng emergency hiring," said Go.

"Ang issue po dito ay buhay ng bawat Pilipino, buhay po ng mga mahihirap. Ginagawan na rin natin ng paraan para madagdagan ang pool of professional health workers natin. Marami na ngang mga health workers natin ang sumusuko dahil talagang pagod na pagod na po sila. They have been at the forefront of this battle since last year," he added.

As for those upgrading LGU hospitals, Go clarified that the national government would only provide support in terms of capital outlay.

"The LGUs are funding the operations of these hospitals but they need support from the national government in terms of capital outlay such as infrastructure and equipment," he explained.

In his speech, Go also sought the support of his fellow lawmakers for the bills establishing new DOH hospitals. He said that while the Mandanas ruling increases the IRA allocation of LGUs, it does not guarantee that they will have sufficient increase to add funding for health or if they will even prioritize health services.

"Kahit na tataas ang kanilang IRA, we have no earmarking and control how much will be allocated for health. Hindi naman po natin alam kung ano ang priorities ng LGUs natin po sa ngayon," he said.

Furthermore, the measures will address the gaps in the country's healthcare system exposed by the current pandemic which prompted the national government to build temporary modular hospitals. Go hopes for the bills establishing DOH hospitals to fill such gaps.

"[A]ng mga modular hospitals funded by the national government na itinayo natin ngayon temporary po ito," said Go.

"Nandidito na po ang pagkakataon, nandidito na po 'yung bills, nandito na po 'yung funding. Manggagaling man po sa national o manggagaling man po local 'yung pera, ang importante po dito, buhay po ng bawat Pilipino ang nakataya dito," he added.

"Uulitin ko nasa health emergency po tayo. Bakit hirap tayong ipasa ito ngayon sa Senado? Nagpaplano nga po tayo ng Bayanihan 3, naghahanap ng pondo para sa mga temporary facilities, ito naman po ay permanente na po at makikinabang po ang ating mga anak at apo, at mga kapatid nating mahihirap," Go said.

Go, then, emphasized that now is not that right time to dwell further on policy debates as the country is embattled by a pandemic.

"This is the time that we need to spend for health care, now more than ever. We should start now! We should learn from this pandemic in order to prepare for the future," he said.

"I am not a lawyer, but I have heard it said, 'salus populi est suprema lex'--the welfare of the people is the supreme law. What should guide us, not only in today's deliberations, but in all of our endeavors, is what is best for our people," he stressed further.

"Kapag inuna mo po ang kapakanan ng iyong kapwa, at minahal mo ang iyong kapwa Pilipino, hinding-hindi ka po magkakamali," he concluded.

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