P16.8-B DOH budget for health units to be restored
The Senate will look for funds to restore the P16.8 billion slashed from the proposed budget of the Department of Health (DOH) that was supposed to be spent on equipment for 900 health centers and complete the construction of more than 300 others, or these facilities will go unused next year.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon objected to the cut in the DOH Health Facilities Enhancement Program that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) made because of the DOH’s poor use of funds in 2018.
Drilon said the poor and the vulnerable shouldn’t be made to suffer because of the health officials’ alleged inefficiency in spending their budget, though he noted that the DOH had disputed the DBM’s reason for the cut.
“You do not punish the Filipino people by depriving them of health services because of the inefficiency of the bureaucracy,” he said.
Just being careful
He added that the DOH had denied being negligent in spending its funds, and explained that it was just being careful in complying with procurement rules.
During interpellation by Drilon, Sen. Loren Legarda, the finance committee chair, agreed to look for fund sources to restore the P16.8 billion slashed from the DOH budget.
Legarda said the amount could be funded by the unused DOH allocations in 2018 that would remain valid in 2019, or by appropriations in the 2019 budget.
Drilon said not restoring the P16.8-billion budget cut would leave 900 new health centers without any equipment and leave 328 nearly completed health centers and hospitals unused for the whole of 2019.
It would adversely affect the universal health care program, he said. “I don’t think we can face our people with the revelations that there are some districts which will get P2.4 billion for farm-to-market roads and yet, here, there are about 900 health facilities that are completed and manned but would not be able to operate because the budget was cut,” Drilon said, referring to Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s disclosure that a Pampanga district got P2.4 billion in additional projects in the proposed 2019 budget.
Focus on social services
He also said cutting the DOH budget would not be consistent with the President’s budget message of focusing on social services.
Legarda said during the interpellation on Monday night that she wanted to restore the P16.8 billion and make it a joint Senate-House amendment.
“It’s important we restore it in full,” Legarda said.
Drilon said the Senate should take a stand on the matter, especially after the disclosure of insertions for favored districts in the House of Representatives.
He said he expected the Senate to introduce an amendment for the funding of the health center and equipment program.
The proposed DOH budget for 2019 is P79 billion. It has been slashed by P28 billion, including the P16.8 billion that the Senate wants to reinstate.
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