Magna Carta for Barangay Health Workers hurdles House panel

Published December 5, 2022, 3:02 PM

by Raymund Antonio

Recognizing the “heroic role” of barangay health workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, the House Committee on Ways and Means on Monday, Dec. 5, approved the tax provisions of the substitute bill consolidating proposed measures for the magna carta of barangay health workers (BHWs).

(Photo from NAVOTAS PIO)

The unnumbered substitute bill, which was referred by the mother committee—the House Committee on Local Government—aims to provide protection to BHWs, as well as open opportunities for career growth.

Valenzuela City 1st District Rep. Rex Gatchalian said the local government committee “will dispense with the reading of our explanatory note as sponsorship message.”

“The contribution of our barangay health workers in the delivery of basic health services at the committee level, specifically primary healthcare can’t be overemphasized. We are all witness to their heroic role along with health professionals,” BHW Party-list Rep. Angelica Natasha Co said in her sponsorship message.

The lawmaker is one of the principal authors of the proposed measure since the 18th Congress.

“It must be emphasized that the benefits and incentives that our BHWs have been receiving for the longest time pursuant to the present law, that is Republic Act 7883, (do) not contribute so much to their well-being or welfare. It is not at all sufficient for their basic needs yet the great majority of our BHWs serve well with utmost dedication in their respective communities,” Co added.

The proposed measure, she furthered, seeks to professionalize the role of BHWs in the promotion of primary health care through programs, trainings, and scholarships, and also provides for a more defined role of the BHWs within the framework of the Universal Health Care.

Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda, chair of the House Ways and Means, lamented that BHWs are underestimated even though residents know them better than their barangay captains.

He also has a message for barangay chiefs, citing that only 286,000 BHWs are listed nationwide when in his own hometown of Albay, he already supports some 6,800 BHWs.

“The only way for you to have zero maternal mortality, zero infant mortality, zero child mortality under the SDG (sustainable development goals) is through the BHW,” he stressed, adding that the importance of BHWs is the reason he agreed to the tax provisions “despite being a fiscal hawk.”

Despite misgivings, it also looked like the provision has the Department of Finance’s (DOF) support.

“We defer on the fund. However, on the tax provision as you have mentioned, we are constrained to support the supposed provision,” Finance Assistant Secretary Juvy Danofrata said.

The substitute bill consolidated the following House Bills (HBs): 67, 101, 301, 378, 450, 461, 513, 588, 741, 1109, 1182, 1408, 1438, 1546, 1547, 1577, 1589, 1670, 1732, 1780, 1829, 1841, 1922, 1967, 1968, 1989, 2059, 2125, 2307, 2352, 2470, 2594, 2739, 2835, 3277, 3317, 3338, 3389, 3446, 3510, 3534, 3646, 4101, 4130, 4134, 4736, 4836, 4905, and 5058, or “Providing for the Magna Carta of Barangay Health Workers.”

These proposed measures were authored by Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez, Deputy Speakers Vincent Franco ‘Duke’ Frasco and Ralph Recto, Reps. Luis Raymund ‘LRay’ Villafuerte Jr., Maria Rachel Arenas, Jeffrey Soriano, Juan Carlos ‘Arjo’ Atayde, Ramon Jolo Revilla III, Marlyn Primicias-Agabas, Julienne Baronda, Eddiebong Plaza, Christian Tell Yap, Keith Micah Tan, Jose Ma. Zubiri Jr., Olga ‘Ara’ Kho, Yedda Marie Romualdez, Maximo Dalog Jr., Johnny Ty Pimentel, Ray Florence Reyes, Wilter Palma, Alfred Delos Santos, Adrian Jay Advincula, Antonio Legarda Jr., Joseph Stephen Paduano, Franciso Paulo Ortega, Rosemarie Panotes, Rufus Rodriguez, JC Abalos, Reynante Arrogancia, Laarni Lavin Roque, Marie Bernadette Escudero, Christopher De Venecia, Edwin Olivarez, Romeo Acop, Oscar Malapitan, Lianda Bolilia, Lorenz Defensor, Harris Christopher Ongchuan, and Gus Tambunting.

According to HB 450, the measure “aims to provide free education and training programs for our barangay health workers, in addition to their entitlement to additional compensation and incentives.”

“Apart from granting due recognition to the incomparable services rendered by the BHWs, this proposed measure also seeks to encourage more healthcare workers to render their service in their own country, which would positively effectuate to at par healthcare programs of our government,” the bill’s explanatory note said.