Will Edsa-C5 traffic improve beginning March?
March is a big month for commuters who hate heavy traffic on Edsa and C5.
Skyway Stage 3, the six-lane, 18.5-kilometer-long elevated expressway from Balintawak, Quezon City to Buendia, Makati City, will finally be completed. Hopefully, the entry and exit ramps can be finished in Balintawak and Quirino Avenue.
The new Harbor Link toll road will also connect to Road 10 (Mayor Mel Lopez Boulevard) via the North Luzon Expressway Karuhatan exit. This means cargo trucks can now go straight to the North and South harbors or even Roxas Boulevard from anywhere in Luzon. This will get rid of cargo trucks on Edsa or Balintawak.More than 100,000 vehicles regularly passing through Edsa can be diverted to these two new roads, including the Ortigas-BGC Link (Sta. Monica-Lawton Bridge).
Also in March, the entire 89-km stretch of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway will be completed with the opening of the 5.9-km Pozzorubio-Sison section in Pangasinan. This will shorten trips from Tarlac City to Rosario, La Union, to just an hour. It is calculated that from Manila, Baguio City can be reached by private cars in three and a half hours.
For lower drug prices to happen, government should raise its pharmaceutical expenditure of only 15 percent to the same level as Thailand (91 percent), Malaysia (54 percent), Australia (54 percent) and Canada (67 percent).
Because of bulk buying, the Department of Health gets very reasonably priced anticholesterol, antihypertensive, antidiabetic and antithrombotic drugs that are used in our public hospitals.
For example, a generic version of Metformin (500 milligrams) is available for only P0.56 in government hospitals but it sells for P3.25 in Southstar Drug and Mercury Drug. Regular insulin (100 international units per milliliter) is priced at P134 in public hospitals but it goes for P642.85 in Generika, P665.25 in Mercury and P1,312.08 in Southstar.
The anticholesterol drug Atorvastatin is available in public hospitals for P3 (40-mg tablet). It is sold at P13 in The Generics Pharmacy, P18.75 in Generika, P20.50 in Mercury, P21.50 in Watsons and P22.96 in Southstar Drug.
I could go on and on about other lower-priced drugs, but we must highlight the inefficiency of the health department’s procurement service in handling its own medical supplies.
In a 2018 report, the Commission on Audit scored the health department for keeping P367 million worth of expired or almost expired drugs and medical supplies. This was a very clear waste of government funds.
In Thailand, their government is very active in securing and distributing cheap medicine to public hospitals that sell these to 80 percent of the public. Only 20 percent of Thais patronize drugstores. In the Philippines, it is the other way around with 87 percent of Filipinos buying medicine from drugstores and only 13 percent getting them from hospitals.
Another issue here is the government-imposed 12 percent value-added tax (VAT) on medicine, currently the highest in Southeast Asia. Indonesia imposes a 10-percent VAT; Thailand, 7 percent; Malaysia, 6 percent; and Vietnam and India, 5 percent. Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom impose zero tax on medicine.
If this government is really serious in lowering drug prices, it should immediately remove the 12-percent VAT and at the same time increase the availability of effective and cheap medicine in all public hospitals.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.