Go to LGUs: Keep bayanihan spirit alive to overcome COVID-19 pandemic

Published December 12, 2020, 10:06 AM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go called on local government units (LGUs) to continue the bayanihan (community) efforts to overcome the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Sen. Bong Go (Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB)

He made the call in his virtual speech during the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines’ (ULAP) #BeatCOVID19 Dialogue series last December 10, in which he lauded LGUs for their untiring service and for sufficiently responding to the needs of their constituents.

“While we are slowly opening the economy, we will assist our small businesses and the ordinary workers to recover. More than anything else, let us not be complacent, we will prioritize the welfare of the majority and the life of every Filipino,” Go told local chief executives, league presidents, and representatives from national agencies present during the event.

“Money can be earned, but the money we earned cannot buy life. A lost life is a lost life forever. For me, I will not limit myself as a legislator. It’s our job, constituency, representation, and legislation,” he added.

Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, also emphasized on the need to improve the country’s healthcare system as a crucial aspect towards recovery.

“This is why I have filed bills to boost our public health system and ensure that we are better prepared for future pandemics,” he said.

Among Go’s measures include Senate Bill (SB) 1226, or the proposed Department of Health Hospital Bed Capacity and Service Capability Rationalization Act, which aims to “streamline the process of upgrading our public hospitals.”

“I am a witness myself that there are a lot of hospitals that lack hospital beds and the process is too long. Our patients cannot wait anymore. There are times that they are lined up there, then one bed for two patients. Especially during the pandemic, the lack of hospital equipment, facilities, further causes the spread of the disease,” he said.

His other measures designed to improve the country’s healthcare system include SB 1259, the Mandatory Quarantine Facilities Act of 2020; SB 1528, An Act Amending RA 11332, known as the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act; SB 1451, the Medical Reserve Corps Act of 2020; and SB 1803 which seeks to institutionalize the system of providing e-Health services to the public.

Among other healthcare measures already enacted into law are the several local hospital bills he sponsored which upgraded various public hospitals nationwide, and Republic Act 11463 , the Malasakit Centers Act, which mandates the establishment of Malasakit Centers in all Department of Health-run hospitals and the Philippine General Hospital.

Meanwhile, Go is also prioritizing the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipinos through SB1835, which he filed on September 16, 2020 considering inputs from the concerned executive agencies.

“You know, it is difficult to pass a law that it is to be vetoed only by the executive. The different agencies of the executive department have agreed to a compromise in order to realize the promise of President Duterte for the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipinos, an agency for what we call our new heroes. Let us give what is due to them,” he said.

“They are our heroes, they are more than ten million, they are dying in other countries. You know, you cannot compensate loneliness, they will not work overseas if they can earn fairly here. Let us provide them the department of their own,” he added.

Go is also pushing for better mechanisms to address natural disasters through SB 205 which seeks to establish a Department of Disaster Resilience. This aims to enhance inter-agency coordination by establishing a Cabinet-level agency in-charge of disaster preparedness, response, mitigation and resilience.

To complement the DDR measure, Go filed SB 1228, the Mandatory Evacuation Center Act, which seeks to build evacuation centers and structures stronger than a typhoon.

Go also advised concerned LGUs to ensure public funds are used properly to benefit the most needy.

Recently, President Duterte approved the release of financial assistance to LGUs severely hit by typhoons “Ulysses” and “Rolly” by augmenting their respective calamity funds.

“We are aware that your calamity fund is already depleted because you used it for the COVID-19 pandemic…This is the reason I am fighting to augment your calamity fund, especially for those LGUs that were severely affected. The President has agreed to it,” Go said.

Assuring the local officials that enough funds had been allotted for the COVID-19 vaccines in 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB), Go said that the Senate has already ratified the Bicameral Conference Committee Report for next year’s budget.

“The budget will be focused on addressing the COVID-19 crisis, boosting economic recovery, and continuing the priority programs and projects of the Duterte administration towards fulfilling the promise of President Duterte of providing a comfortable life for all Filipinos,” he said.

He also recounted how he fought for the budget of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine RITM) which has turned out to be crucial in the country’s fight against COVID-19.

The 2021 GAB includes funds for COVID-19 vaccines amounting to P2.5 billion under the DOH. There is also a standby fund of around P70 billion in the unprogrammed appropriations for vaccine procurement, storage, transport, and distribution of vaccine.

He also stated that a National Vaccine Roadmap has already been formulated to ensure the systematic procurement and deployment of the vaccines once they are available.

“The direct procurement), either through annual budget or Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, is only one of the four modes of procurement the government is exploring,” he said.

Other equally important modes include multilateral loans with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank, bilateral loans with select countries, and private sector financing through tripartite agreement among the national government, pharmaceutical company and the private company with no cost to government.

There are businessmen who promised to procure vaccines for their employees and they will donate half of it to our fellow Filipino countrymen,” he added.

Ending his speech, Go told Filipinos that he would continue to help those in crisis situations wherever they are in the country.