By Charissa Luci-Atienza
BHW party-list Rep. Angelica Natasha Co batted on Thursday (Jan. 23) for the passage of a bill seeking to provide security of tenure, benefits, and incentives to barangay health workers (BHWs).
She cited the crucial role of BHWs in the promotion of primary health care at the grassroots level, particularly in far-flung areas.
“BHWs’ role is indispensable to barangay health and wellness. It is a necessity to have them, they are needed in far-flung areas where medical doctors and other health professionals are not present,” she said in her opening statement at the roundtable discussion on 29 measures seeking to promote and safeguard the welfare and interest of BHWs.
Co is the principal author of House Bill (HB) No. 3985 or the proposed Barangay Health and Wellness Reform Act of 2019, which grants the following incentives and benefits to BHWs: monthly P3,000 honoraria; monthly P1,000 hazard allowance; P100 subsistence allowance per day; monthly P1,000 transportation allowance; free medical care when confined in any public hospital; insurance coverage; and sick, vacation, and maternity leaves.
During the discussion, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and the Department of Health (DOH) rallied behind the passage of the bills benefiting BHWs.
DILG Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs Martin Diño expressed support for the measures granting security of tenure, benefits, and incentives to BHWs.
“BHWs are the frontliners when it comes to the delivery of health services in the country. That’s why we are supporting the initiatives of Congress to grant them benefits and incentives,” he said. “There are BHWs who are receiving P500 allowance, and yet they are working 24-7. I think the benefits and incentives that will be extended by Congress to them are justifiable.”
He said there are 840,000 BHWs in 42,045 barangays in the country, and they will help the DOH address the decline in the country’s immunization program.
“We fell short when it comes to immunization. Since 2014, the immunization rate has dropped and now the BHWs will help to boost the immunization in the entire Philippines.”
Health Program Officer Maria Lourdes Gajitos of the DOH-Bureau of Local Health Systems and Development (BLHSD) proposed that a subsistence and transportation allowance be urgently given to BHWs.
During the discussion, it was agreed that before receiving the proposed benefits, the BHWs should have undergone one year of training at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), while Diño proposed that BHWs be enrolled in the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.
Director Justin Batocabe of the DSWD-National Household Targeting Office (NHTO) said such a proposal deserves to be supported.
Meanwhile, Co said HB 3985 will be consolidated with other 28 other related BHW measures. She will be chairing the technical working group (TWG) that will consolidate the 29 BHW measures pending before the House committee on local government.
She said they will hold the first TWG meeting on the measures by the last week of January or first week of February.
“We will be having three TWG meetings and after which, we will present a consolidated bill for approval to the mother committee,” Co said in an interview after the roundtable discussion.
“It is imperative to institutionalize and strengthen primary health care at the barangay level by establishing the necessary support mechanisms, by upgrading the incentives and benefits of barangay health workers, and by providing the necessary funds for its effective implementation.”