Drilon: Gov’t can fund nurses’ pay hike if it can afford P2-B jet, P8.2-B intel fund
MANILA, Philippines — If the government was willing to purchase a P2-billion jet, then there must be no reason why it could not fund the adjustment in the salary of Filipino nurses.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon raised this point Thursday, as he urged the Senate finance committee to look for means to fund the increase in government nurses’ pay.
Drilon’s proposition came after the Supreme Court ruled that the minimum base pay of entry-level nurses should not be lower than Salary Grade 15 although it also said it is up to Congress to provide for funding. Salary Grade 15 is equivalent to not less than P30,000.
“If the government is willing to buy a P2 billion jet and if it can boldly ask Congress for a record-breaking P8.2 billion intelligence and confidential fund, I do not see any reason why we cannot fund the adjustment in the salary of our nurses,” Drilon said.
Drilon was referring to the P2-billion fixed-wing jet aircraft the Philippine Air Force is acquiring for the government and ranking military officials in times of emergency.
The senator said the government should look for ways to provide the necessary funding to implement the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002.
“There are excess fats in the P4.1-trillion 2020 spending outlay which we can use to augment the minimum base pay of thousands of government nurses in accordance with the Republic Act 9173 and pursuant to the ruling of the Supreme Court,” Drilon pointed out.
He noted that there are 7,193 authorized Nurse 1 positions in government, which will entail an additional P1 billion to implement the RA 9173 starting 2020.
The proposed 2020 national budget is being heard at the Senate and will be brought to the floor for deliberation when Congress resumes session in November.
According to Drilon, there are three possible funding sources for the nurses’ salary increase, namely: the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF), proposed budget for the 2020 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections; and some unutilized revenues from the Sin Tax Law.
Specifically, Drilon said the P63-billion MPBF for 2020 as well as the around P6 billion budget of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the 2020 Barangay and SK elections, which lawmakers want to be postponed to 2022, may be used to cover the salary adjustments for entry-level nurses.
Moreover, he said, the budget requirement for government nurses’ pay hike could also be sourced from the unutilized excise tax collection. Drilon noted that the government is expected to raise this year more than P100 billion from excise tax on tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, which would be used to principally bankroll the Universal Health Act and other health-related programs of government.
“We owe it to our nurses who provide patients 24/7 health care in overcrowded government hospitals, which sometimes comes at the expense of their own health and wellbeing,” he said.
“This is a health concern and the proceeds from the Sin Tax Law can be used to fund the adjustment in the base pay of government nurses,” he likewise said.
Drilon explained that under the Philippine Nursing Act, “the minimum base pay of nurses working in the public health institutions shall not be lower than salary grade (SG) 15.”
Drilon said that under the present salary scheme, the minimum base pay of nurses in public hospitals should be P30,531.
But for the past 17 years since the enactment of the law, public health nurses have only been paid the equivalent of Salary Grade 10, which amounts to P19,233 today, or at least P10,000 lower than what they are supposed to receive under RA 9173, he added.
Drilon noted that the implementation of the Philippine Nursing Act would help enhance local nurses’ commitment to service and professionalism, especially since “more and more nurses are leaving the country each year in search of greener pastures abroad and away from their families.” /kga
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