Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, has emphasized the critical need for ample government support for Filipino healthcare workers.
He reminded the Department of Budget and Management, Department of Health, and other concerned agencies to ensure that allowances and benefits due to qualified HCWs are released in accordance with the law.
During the Senate plenary session on Wednesday, November 8, Go questioned the delayed disbursement of the health emergency allowance and underscored its significance in providing immediate financial relief to healthcare frontliners
“We passed Republic Act 11712 which grants continuing benefits and allowances to public and private healthcare workers during public health emergencies, like COVID-19. Last July, the state of public health emergency due to COVID-19 throughout the Philippines has been lifted by President Marcos, sa kabila nito may mga healthcare workers pa na hindi nababayaran ang kanilang HEA o health emergency allowance,” Go cited.
“Sa pag-iikot ko po ng bansa, may lumalapit sakin at ipinaparating na, ‘Sir, yung aming HEA ay hindi pa nila nababayaran, di pa namin natatanggap.’ Parati natin sinasabi na sila ang ating hero noong pandemya at hindi natin mararating ito kung hindi po dahil sa kanila,” he added. Go’s inquiry is particularly relevant, given that the government has set aside a substantial amount of P19.962 billion for public health emergency benefits and allowances in the 2023 national budget, covering both healthcare and non-healthcare workers. Furthermore, an additional P52.962 billion in unprogrammed funds is allocated for the potential compensation of healthcare professionals.
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said that P19.6 billion has already been disbursed from the programmed funds, while an additional P4 billion has been allocated from the unprogrammed funds.
Meanwhile, Go questioned the rationale behind the approval of only a specific portion of the proposed P66.3 billion 2024 Department of Health (DOH) budget for the compensation of COVID-19 workers in health facilities.
Go then stressed that these frontliners have incurred various expenses in the line of duty, often at great personal cost. Delayed or insufficient allowance payments would only compound the hardships they face, leaving them feeling undervalued and unsupported, he added.
“I would like to appeal to DBM to release sufficient funds for the healthcare workers’ allowances. This is to ensure that our modern-day heroes get the allowances that they are entitled to. This is just a small incentive for our frontliners,” Go acknowledged.
Furthermore, Go expressed support for the proposed salary increase for public sector workers possibly through an enactment of a Salary Standardization Law 6 (SSL 6), building upon the success of its predecessor, SSL 5 which Go authored and co-sponsored in 2020 that provided increased compensation for all government workers, including healthcare professionals in the public sector.Go likewise introduced Senate Bill No. 427, known as the Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) Compensation Bill. This proposed legislation, if passed, aims to grant monthly honorariums to BHWs while also offering them additional benefits, including allowances, job security, ongoing training, and opportunities for skill enhancement.