Kabataan solon asks OVP: Why no budget for COVID-19 tests, ‘E-Konsulta?
MANILA, Philippines — The current Office of the Vice President (OVP) has been asked by a youth party-list in the House of Representatives why it cannot afford to maintain the COVID-19 testing and online medical consultations begun by former vice president Leni Robredo.
Debating the proposed budget for the OVP on Thursday, Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel sought to know if the OVP was aware of the projects initiated by Robredo despite a much lower budget.
In response, Davao de Oro 1st District Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora, who sponsored the OVP’s proposed budget, emphasized that the OVP knows what its predecessors did and will continue what she started.
However, Manuel pointed out that the OVP’s current budget doesn’t include anything from the previous administration.
“Mr. Speaker, our distinguished sponsor has mentioned that the programs of the past OVP would be continued and increased even more. But Mr. Speaker, according to the list of projects under the Good Governance Programs under the current OVP, what we saw are Livelihood Programs, Libreng Sakay (free rides), and the provision of bags,” Manuel said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“We did not see there, Mr. Speaker, the diversity of programs that should have been continued. There are no COVID-19-related programs like testing, online consultation, assistance for vaccine distribution, community learning hubs, distance learning tools, and assistance to healthcare workers,” he added.
According to Zamora, the country is recovering from COVID-19 and should focus on livelihood programs and economic recovery and the Magnegosyo Ta “Day.
As she told Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman who questioned the OVP’s confidential funds, the OVP intends to complement the President’s Office. In addition, the OVP acknowledges the DOH’s pandemic mandate.
Although the Philippines appears to be out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Manuel noted that the DOH itself had noticed an increase in the number of COVID-19 positives.
“For example, Mr. Speaker, [in] the past few weeks, our COVID-19 positivity rate across the country has reached 14 percent. It is also far from the recommended level of the World Health Organization that we can handle, which should not exceed five percent. And then our booster shot update is still so low,” he said.
“This is the reason why we are confused as to why the good programs initiated by the past Office of the Vice President cannot be seen in the current plans, Mr. Speaker,” he added.
In her six years as vice president, Robredo implemented several anti-poverty programs despite having a meager budget that never exceeded P1 billion.
OVP under Robredo provided health workers with personal protective equipment, dormitories, hot meals, grocery assistance, and free bus rides during the COVID-19 crisis.
Donations and private partnerships mainly funded Robredo’s OVP.
Robredo’s OVP also set up a telemedicine channel called Bayanihan E-Konsulta for local governments and businesses.
Robredo lost to Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Duterte’s running mate, in 2022. After losing, she pledged to keep running the Angat Buhay Foundation.
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.