Recto flags P10-billion slash in 2024 budget for DOH
MANILA, Philippines – The allotment next year for the Department of Health (DOH), an agency that used to be front and center in the government’s budgeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been slashed by some P10 billion, House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto said on Sunday.
The Batangas representative noted that, under the proposed National Expenditure Program (NEP) of P5.768 trillion for 2024, the government has set aside only P199 billion for DOH, compared with its approved allocation of P209 billion this year.
Among the biggest casualties of the lower budget for the DOH, according to Recto, were the country’s four major specialty health facilities — the Lung Center of the Philippines, Kidney Center of the Philippines, Heart Center of the Philippines, and Philippine Children’s Medical Center.
The recommended funding for the four health institutions which poor Filipinos heavily depend on dropped by a total of P818 million, the veteran lawmaker lamented.
Even the proposed allocation for the Medical Assistance for Indigents Fund was slashed by more than P10 billion, leaving it to just P22.2 billion compared with the present allotment of P32.6 billion, Recto said.
He noted that the budget for social services had been taken over by spending for the “big payroll and overhead [expenses] in maintaining a large bureaucracy [and] the rising debt service.”
But he also said that “Congress and the Executive [branch], in the spirit of cooperation, will find ways on how to increase the health budget,” as they had done in the past.
“If the budget were a sculpture, then revenues are the clay from which it is made from. You cannot make a big sculpture if you don’t have enough materials,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
“Budget-wise,” Recto said, “the DOH is still reeling from the effects of long COVID-19 as shown by the proposed P20-billion allocation for ‘Public Health Emergency Benefits’ for health workers.”
The NEP is the national government’s spending plan for next year. Once approved by Congress, it will be known as the General Appropriations Bill, and once passed into law, the bill will be known as the General Appropriations Act.
The proposed 2024 budget of P5.768 trillion is equivalent to 21.8 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and is 9.5 percent higher than this year’s P5.268-trillion budget.
Recto said that despite these reductions in the DOH budget, there was still some “good news,” as the Cancer Assistance Fund was allotted P1 billion, double the approved budget for 2023.
Another P1.02 billion was also set aside for the Cancer Control Fund to help fight the disease that killed one Filipino every nine minutes in 2021, he said.
Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman earlier said the departments’ budget proposals were evaluated considering several factors, such as the agencies’ budget utilization rates in the past years and the alignment of their programs, activities, and projects with the priorities outlined in the Budget Priorities Framework.
The 2024 budget, Pangandaman stressed, was “crafted as an indispensable step toward the overarching goal to attain upper-middle-income status while bringing down the deficit to 3 [percent] of GDP and reducing the poverty rate to 9 [percent] or single digit by 2028.”