Press Release
August 25, 2021

Govt's misplaced priorities under a pandemic
Nancy: ELCAC gets P28B, but RITM lab fund cut by P170M

Sen. Nancy Binay today slammed the plan to increase by P11 billion the budget for an anti-insurgency task force for 2022, while slashing by P170 million the budget for the country's primary infectious disease research and laboratory facility.

Amid elevated Covid variant outbreaks, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine's (RITM) 2022 proposed budget for laboratory services was slashed by P170 million--from P393 million in 2021, down to P223 million for 2022. On the other hand, Malacanang wanted P11.66 billion more than the P16.4 billion budget NTF-ELCAC received in 2021.

"What's happening? Ang kalaban natin ay Covid. Mas importante ba ang ELCAC kaysa RITM? It does not make sense. Government seems to be removed from the realities on the ground," Binay said.

According to Binay, as a critical backend support line of the Department of Health in preventing infectious and communicable diseases, RITM should be given high priority, and its budget expanded and increased.

"At a time when we need a reliable and stable lead center in our fight against the pandemic, DBM chooses to cut back RITM's budget. Year-in year-out, binabawasan lagi. 'Di ba ang dapat gawin ay ang palakasin pa lalo ang mga public health service institutions, hindi pahinain," the lady senator pointed out.

Binay added that disparity in funding and how the war against Covid and the war against insurgency are being handled show how misplaced Malacanang's priorities are under a pandemic.

"As RITM is already struggling in building their manpower and lab resources, babawasan pa ang budget nila. Yung masaklap is that NTF-ELCAC's budget is inflated to billions, while depriving RITM--a legitimate government institution--of funds necessary to provide critical laboratory services in time of a pandemic. It doesn't make any sense at all," the senator pointed out.

Binay noted that slashing RITM's budget stunts its critical testing capacity, and effectively cripples its primary mandate of testing.

"Paano tayo makakapag-level up kung laging iniipit ang kakarampot na budget para sa health, testing at Covid response, pero may bilyones na budget sa red-tagging," she added.

Binay said she will oppose the proposed 2022 NTF-ELCAC budget, and will ask colleagues in the Senate to increase rather the budget of government health research initiatives, disease surveillance, genomic testings, and national public hospitals.

"Given the limited fiscal sources, it is morally unacceptable and wrong to prioritize P28 billion on a misplaced agenda over a crucial public health agenda that has a direct impact on the health of 100 million Filipinos... Timing of testing is crucial. Let's equip, retool and modernize RITM. Give them the latitude to hire more scientists. RITM needs the necessary funding support--lalo pa ngayong we're racing against time and finding ways in tapping resources judiciously in fighting both known and unknown diseases. Hindi pula ang kulay ng kalaban. Ang laban ngayon ay kung paano mabuhay," Binay noted.

Rather than support NTF-ELCAC's request to increase its budget, Binay added it would be best if Congress gives RITM a big budget boost in order to increase its scale and scope, and strengthen its role in medical research and public health.

She said testing is one of the biggest missing pieces in the "3 Ts", and RITM plays a big role in the country's fight against the virus if only it is given the necessary support and funding.

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