By Hannah Torregoza
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday vowed to push for the restoration of the billions of pesos slashed from the Department of Health’s (DOH) proposed 2020 budget.
Hontiveros said she cannot understand why the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the DOH agreed to lower the agency’s allocation for 2020 given that the government needs to boost its programs against the dengue and measles outbreaks.
A higher DOH budget is also needed to ensure the effective implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act.
“Sa isang panahon na ang daming nagkakasakit at namamatay dahil sa iba’t ibang epidemiya, hindi makatao at makatarungan na bawasan ang budget para sa kalusugan, (At a time when many people are getting sick and dying due to epidemic, it is inhuman and unfair to slash the budget for health),” Hontiveros said.
The senator noted that the DOH is set to receive only P160.15-billion for 2020, which is five (5) percent lower than this year’s allocation of P169.45-billion.
“The much-awaited Universal Healthcare Act (UHCA), which ensures accessible and effective health services for all, will begin to be implemented next year. Meanwhile, we also need to bring down cases of measles and dengue, which have sent hundreds of thousands of Filipinos to our hospitals and health centers,” she said.
“Given these, the DOH budget cut is illogical, counter-productive and even criminal. It is an attack on public health,” Hontiveros stressed.
Hontiveros, who co-authored the UHC law in the Senate, said that the proposed P160.15-billion DOH budget for 2020 needs at least P70-billion more to be able to fully implement all programs under the UHC law in its first year. Lawmakers estimated that the implementation of the UHC law range from P241.8-billion to P247-billion.
The senator said the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) was supposed to receive a budget of P152-billion so that those who may be suffering from dengue, measles or any other disease or condition can go to their local hospitals and receive treatment without worrying about hefty payments.
“But under the proposed 2020 budget, PhilHealth will only receive P67-billion. How can the government deliver on its promise of universal healthcare if the health sector is not provided with the appropriate funding?” she asked.
Hontiveros said she will work to increase funding for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) which will be tapped to achieve the target ratio under the UHC Law of one barangay health station per barangay.
She also said that the proposed P5.9-billion for HFEP under the 2020 budget is “woefully lacking” when the estimated cost of such a landmark program is pegged at P23.5-billion.
“I urge my colleagues in the Senate to support a larger budgetary allocation to health services,” said Hontiveros.
“Every peso added to health services and programs may literally spell the difference between life and death for our constituents,” she stressed.