Hontiveros calls for funding of health workers’ benefits, 'ayuda'

Published September 8, 2021, 3:25 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday, September 8 asked Malacanang to amend its proposed 2022 P5 trillion budget submissions to Congress, saying it failed to allocate sufficient funds for ‘essential items’ that would help the country tide itself over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hontiveros noted that in the proposed 2022 National Expenditure Program (NEP), the Executive failed to allocate funds for the benefits of health workers, cash aid for new poor families and service contracting, and even placed booster shots under ‘unprogrammed appropriations.’

The Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) presented today the proposed 2022 NEP before the Senate finance committee chaired by Senator Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’ M. Angara.

“Masyadong disconnected ang budget na ito sa realidad ng pandemya (There is a wide disconnect between the budget and the realities of COVID-19). COVID-19 is here to stay for the next one or even two years. Malacanang has to send an amendment and an addendum to the 2022 budget to make sure the relief and response are at a high level,“ Hontiveros stated.

According to the lady legislator, it is ‘unacceptable’ that the healthworkers who are at the forefront of the country’s battle against COVID-19 were not allocated, even a single centavo, for their welfare

“Sa kabila ng kali-kaliwang panawagan at panaghoy ng ating healthcare workers na maibigay na ang kanilang SRA, gaano kagarapal na sa budget sa susunod na taon ay ni singkong duling, walang inilaan para sa kanilang SRA, hazard pay, allowance sa meals, accommodations at transportation? (Amid the cries from our healthworkers that they special risk allowance (SRA) be given, the proposed budget does not have a single centavo for their SRA, hazard pay, meal allowances, accomodations and transportations). Bigyan naman natin ng dignidad ang ating medical frontliners (Let us give dignity to our medical frontliners),” she said.

Hontiveros also questioned the lack of allocated funds for the new poor families eligible to be included in the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Likewise, Hontiveros flagged the absence of funds allotted for service contracting that could support the operators of public utility vehicles who continue to suffer income losses due to the imposition of physical distancing and limited routes.

Hontiveros has since called for adequate support to ease the woes of the commuting public and give PUV drivers a stable source of income.

She also expressed her dismay that the funds for the vaccine booster shots were placed only under the ‘unprogrammed appropriations’.

Hontiveros added that there were no additional funds for the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to anticipate voting in the new normal. “

She pointed out that Malacanang should instead reduce the budgets of some agencies, such as the proposed budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC), which apparently increased by 57 percent.

Likewise, she said that infrastructure budgets should be lowered, and that the Department of Budget and Management should merely ensure that there are multi-year obligation authorities (MYOA) that will finance connective network infrastructure in 2023 and onwards.

“As far as we all are concerned, we demand a budget that will effectively address the demands of the time. Common sense dapat na ang priority ay ang magliligtas ang buhay at kabuhayan ng ating mga kababayan (common sense should be the priority because it saves lives and livelihood of our countrymen),” she added.