Gov’t should tap calamity funds to repair fire-hit PGH–Villanueva

Published May 16, 2021, 1:36 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Joel Villanueva on Sunday, May 16 urged the government to use the P19.445 billion unused calamity funds under the 2020 and 2021 budget to finance the immediate repair of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) which caught fire early morning today.

“The PGH should be repaired in the same way that it treats patients – urgently – and the available balance of the Calamity Fund for the two fiscal years can make this possible,” Villanueva suggested.

Villanueva lamented that the early morning fire that sent patients—infants in incubators and intubated adults—being wheeled out of safety as a “double calamity.”

“That is the only way to describe the plight of COVID-19 patients ending up as fire victims. Kaya po mahalagang masimulan ang pag-repair sa PGH dahil libu-libong kababayan natin ang umaasa sa kanilang kalinga at aruga (It’s important to start the immediate repair of the PGH because thousands of our people are expecting their continuous care and service),” said the senator.

Villanueva warned PGH and its patients are not the only ones who would suffer, but the public also since a PGH with a reduced operational capacity would aggravate the chronic bed shortage for patients with severe COVID-19 and others, like those with cancer, who seek treatment from one of the nation’s best public hospitals.

Thus, he said, the unused calamity funds could be used to jumpstart the efforts to “building back a better and bigger PGH.”

Under the 2021 national budget, the calamity fund under the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund (NDRRMF), has a P20-billion appropriation, of which P5-billion is for the Marawi City rehabilitation.

On top of this is the unspent P5.14-billion from the 2020 calamity fund that was carried over under the 2021 spending, bringing the starting year balance of the fund to P25.14-billion.

However, as of April 30, Villanueva said only P2.909-billion has been released.

“Although the NDRRMF is better known as the ‘salvation fund’ for communities hit by typhoons, floods, drought, earthquakes and other natural calamities, the provisions of the national budget actually allow its disbursement for man-made calamities such as a town razed down by fire,” the senator explained.

“Even if PGH is covered by insurance, I am sure that it won’t be enough to replace the damage. Kaya kailangan pong gamitin ang (so we need to use the) calamity fund,” he stressed.