Senators set high hopes for Teodoro in DND, Herbosa in DOH
MANILA, Philippines — Senators have high expectations for lawyer Gilbert Teodoro and former pandemic task force adviser Dr. Teodoro Herbosa who have been tasked to run the Department of National Defense and the Department of Health, respectively.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Tuesday expressed full support for the appointment of Teodoro and Herbosa, which was announced nearly a year after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took office.
“The President has just addressed the two most pressing challenges of our time – territorial integrity and our full recovery from the pandemic. Their appointments should give a big boost to our fight to have a secure and stronger nation supported by a healthy population,” Zubiri said in a statement.
In another statement, Senator Grace Poe said Teodoro and Herbosa’s “expertise and experience in their respective fields will help them carry on the gargantuan tasks that lie ahead.”
“The new Secretaries are crucial in deciding and implementing strategies in addressing the various health issues we are facing and in upholding the country’s territorial integrity against various threats,” she said.
WPS challenge awaits Teodoro
Zubiri pointed out that Teodoro’s return as DND chief comes with trust that he will lead the agency “most capably, particularly amidst this atmosphere of brewing tensions in our waters.”
Zubiri is referring to the Philippines’ strained ties with China due to a maritime dispute over the West Philippine Sea.
China has historic claims in nearly the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.
But an arbitral tribunal in 2016 overwhelmingly ruled in favor of the Philippines and deemed unlawful China’s sweeping claims, including its unrelenting encroachment in Philippine waters.
Senator JV Ejercito echoed the same challenge for Teodoro as he pressed for the new DND chief to ensure the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“We need to expedite these efforts to put up a robust defense posture and reinforce our coastal defenses amidst growing tensions in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea. For us to stand up to China’s bullying and protect our territorial integrity, we need a respectable armed forces that is well-equipped and adequately funded,” Ejercito said in a separate statement.
Senator Jinggoy Estrada, meanwhile, said he was hopeful that Teodoro’s history in the defense sector “will ensure informed decision-making and effective management of defense affairs, particularly on security challenges.”
He said installing a permanent DND chief is crucial as it ensures continuity, stability, effective coordination, policy implementation, accountability, and defense and security representation, among others.
“These contribute to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the defense sector in safeguarding the nation’s security,” Estrada said in his own statement.
‘Tall orders’ for DOH chief
Meanwhile, Zubiri and Ejercito called on Herbosa to prioritize measures that would uplift public health care.
“I hope that Secretary Herbosa will prioritize the full implementation of the Universal Health Care [UHC] law. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of our public health system,” Ejercito said.
Aside from the UHC measure, Ejercito also noted that Marcos had included several health-related bills in the roster of his administration’s legislative priorities. This includes the establishment of regional specialty centers in DOH-supervised hospitals in the country and the adjustments in the contribution rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation.
“We will be needing the support of the DOH in pushing these legislative measures forward and implementing them in the near future. Without a doubt, these are tall orders for our [incoming] Health Secretary. But we still have a lot of work to do in our efforts to achieve zero balance billing for all Filipinos availing of our medical services and facilities,” Ejercito said.
Zubiri, who is among the main proponents of the Congress-approved Regional Specialty Centers bill, further expressed hopes for Herbosa to “spearhead a truly whole-of-nation approach in the improvement of our public health services.”
CA journey still uncertain
The Senate president said his support does not mean the two newly-designated officials will just breeze through the Commission on Appointments (CA).
However, he vowed to help them secure the CA’s nod.
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, reserved her comments on the appointment of Teodoro and Herbosa when they face the powerful CA to seek the confirmation of their positions.