Drilon blasts P49-billion cut in 2021 DOH budget
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Franklin Drilon slammed the Duterte administration for reducing the budget of the Department of Health (DOH) by P49 billion despite the difficulties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The 2021 proposed national budget was crafted as if there’s no pandemic that we have to deal with,” Sen. Franklin Drilon said in a radio interview. “It does not address the challenges we’re facing because of the pandemic. It’s not responsive [to our needs].”
Drilon, the minority floor leader, noted that from its current budget of P180 billion, Malacañang allotted only P131 billion for the DOH next year when the government was expected to spend for the vaccine against the new coronavirus, which has already infected over 300,000 Filipinos.
Drilon said the corruption scandal in Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) involving Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, which he and his colleagues had exposed, does not justify the budget cut in the health sector.
“We need more budget for [DOH] because our problem right now is the pandemic. If the people do not trust the government’s capability to address the pandemic, the economy will not be vibrant again,” he said.
“We should put more funds to the health sector. The corruption in PhilHealth was really bad, but that’s a different problem,” he said.
Drilon also blasted the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for keeping hold of P10 billion in cash aid that would have benefited at least four million low-income families.
Ramp up public spending He noted that even Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III had previously said that the government should ramp up public spending to help the economy, which has been reeling from businesses closures that left millions of Filipinos jobless.
“If that’s the policy of the government, it seems that the DSWD did not listen because they refused to spend the P10 billion,” the senator said.
“[Next year’s national] budget should be, first and foremost, health-oriented. There is no economy to speak of … if citizens are afraid to go out because of the lack of confidence in the ability of the government to address the pandemic,” he said in a separate statement.
During the Senate’s deliberations last week on the DSWD’s proposed budget for 2021, DSWD officials said they cut the number of beneficiaries of the Social Amelioration Program from 18 million families during the first tranche to 14 million households in the second phase because of an order from Malacañang.
DSWD legal office chief Paul Tacorda said they received a letter from the Office of the President on May 22 directing them to bring down to “12 to 14 million” the recipients and release the remaining financial aid to the “wait-listed group identified by the President.”
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