Batanes: only measles-free province in Phl -DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   March 11, 2019   •   1295

MANILA, Philippines – Batanes is the only province in the Philippines that is still free from measles, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

DOH Undersecretary Eric Domingo cited the province’s geographical location as among the likely reasons why it remains measles-free.

Batanes is northernmost province in the Philippines situated in the Cagayan Valley region.

“Batanes is isolated and there is also less traffic there so it remains free from measles. We hope they can maintain that,” Domingo said.

DOH record from January 1 to March 2, 2019 showed that the cases of measles infection in the country have reached 16,349 with 261 deaths. Around 3,374 cases were reported during the same period in 2017, without deaths.

The most number of measles infection were reported from Calabarzon, Metro Manila and Central Luzon with 3,875; 3,617; 2,330 cases, respectively. These are the three regions where measles outbreak was first declared.

The last provinces to report measles cases are Catanduanes with one case, and Tawi-Tawi with 11 cases, according to DOH data.

Domingo added that as of March 6, the DOH was already able to hit half of its targeted 3,783,985 children aged six to 59 months.

“Our coverage has already reached 45 percent. We are hopeful that we can vaccinate all of the target children soon,” he maintained.

The Health Official added that the DOH and local governments have scaled up vaccination of eligible children to keep measles at bay.

The DOH has also started door-to-door supplemental immunization and intensified routine vaccination at health centers in the hopes of controlling the measles outbreak by April or May.

The agency has repeatedly called on parents and caregivers to get their child vaccinated to protect them from measles and other diseases.

Aside from measles, the country is also grappling with spiking dengue cases which has reached 36,664 with 140 deaths as of February 2019. — Robie de Guzman

Dengue cases hit 36,000; death toll reaches 140

DOH to release rules for benefits of coronavirus-stricken health workers

Robie de Guzman   •   June 4, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday assured it will issue within the day the joint administrative order on the release of benefits for health workers infected with novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the Secretary of Health has already signed the joint administrative order and they are only awaiting the signature of both the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

The order will contain implementing rules on Section 4F of the Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which states that a compensation of P100,000 will be provided to public and private health workers who may contract severe COVID-19 infection while in the line of duty; while those who die while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic will receive a compensation of P1 million.

The DOH earlier reported that 32 healthcare workers died due to COVID-19 while 79 were severely ill.

As of June 2, a total of 2,675 healthcare workers contracted COVID-19; 1,457 of them have recovered.

Vergeire said the release of the guidelines was delayed because they still had to source the funds for the beneficiaries.

She added that they also explored different possibilities, including tapping the Government Service Insurance System and the Social Security System, but found that doing so would result in a more difficult process.


“Alam naman natin na marami doon sa mga gastustin ngayon ay kinukuha lang natin sa realigned budget namin especially for those logistics na pangangailangan namin,” she said.

The health official said the DOH has allotted P100 million for the program which will come from the agency’s medical assistance funds.

“Kung saka-sakali na tayo ay maka-receive na ng documentary requirements na kailangan ng ating gobyerno para makapag- release tayo ng pera,” she said.

Vergeire said the DOH has already contacted the families of all 32 health workers who died of the disease for the requirements.

Malacañang on Thursday said that President Rodrigo Duterte has given concerned government agencies until June 9 to distribute the financial assistance to COVID-19-stricken health workers. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Delayed cash assistance to fallen, sickened medical frontliners dismayed Senators

Marje Pelayo   •   June 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Medical frontliners who will get infected with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in line of duty starting February 1, 2020, are entitled to receive a compensation of P100,000.

Meanwhile, relatives of those who will die of the disease will receive P1-million, according to Section 4 of the Bayanihan to Heal as One-Act. 

But until now, none of the infected healthcare workers not even the relatives of those who succumbed to COVID-19 have received any amount from the government which dismayed several Senators.

According to Senator Sonny Angara, the Department of Health (DOH) failed to come up with implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Law that is why they were not able to distribute the said financial aid to the supposed beneficiaries.

The Senator insisted that the DOH should not use the absence of an IRR as an excuse for not complying with the law. 

“It is really criminal. This neglect to pass and to delay these types of benefits,” Angara said. 

“These people, we keep praising them as our heroes but yet, it’s just mere lip service if we don’t give them anything material,” he added.

Senator Richard Gordon, meanwhile, stressed that providing aid to frontliners sickened or killed in the line of duty especially at this pandemic is something unquestionable. 

“You don’t need Implementing Rules and Regulations here. The law is very clear. Why should we distinguish? They have already died,” Gordon said. 

“A little investigation will tell us that you can pay them because they died because they were in the frontlines! That’s a no-brainer,” he added. 

Gordon noted that the COVID-19 death toll among healthcare workers has already reached 32 while two others are now severely or critically ill. 

Senator Kiko Pangilinan also expressed his dismay and called the matter ‘unacceptable and unforgivable.’

“They have already died. They have already suffered, and we continue to allow them to suffer more because of this failure and inaction on the part of the Department of Health,” he said.

Because of this, Senate President Vicente Sotto III demanded the DOH to explain such delays in the compensation of fallen and sickened healthcare workers.

“It is definitely unacceptable. The answer is acceptable. They have to do it and they have to do it today,” Sotto said.

The DOH, however, is yet to respond to the matter. —MNP (with details from Harlene Delgado)

Drilon, Lacson urge DOH to drop proposed P11.7-B fund for contact tracing, adopt other effective solutions

Robie de Guzman   •   June 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon called on the Department of Health (DOH) to be resourceful in its contact tracing and to drop its proposed P11.7 billion funding for the hiring of 130,000 individuals for the project.

In a statement on Tuesday, Drilon said government agencies should exercise prudent judgment in the use of public funds in consideration of the country’s growing budget deficit due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

“Mag-ingat po tayo sa paggasta ng pera ng taumbayan lalo sa panahon ng krisis,” Drilon said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Given the increasing budget deficit, which is projected to reach P1.56 trillion or 8.1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product this year, this P11.7 billion should better be put to good use,” he added.

Drilon also backed Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s call to the DOH to divert the fund for contact tracing to the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

He said the health agency should stop insisting on its plan when it can find other ways “to do contact tracing without hurting the government coffers.”

The senator reiterated his proposal for the DOH to tap around 400,000 barangay health workers and parent-leaders from the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program to carry out contact tracing to save the government huge amount of money.

“Since they are already organized, they can be quickly mobilized as contact tracers,” he said.

“Our objective to prevent the virus from spreading is based on our ability to efficiently identify the infected and notify those he or she has made contact with. Hence, contact tracing is a must and should never be neglected,” he added.

Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson urged the DOH to adopt cheap, yet effective contact tracing solutions of local government units (LGU).

He cited for example the LGU of Carmona, Cavite which developed an app that can track users’ location history using a mobile phone’s GPS. It also allows uses to log interactions with other people and do self-assessment if they experience symptoms.

“In just a few days of implementation, the local government has already signed up 42,000 out of the municipality’s 97,557 residents,” Lacson said.

“For those without smartphones, the local government’s barangay and police personnel can input the information for them,” he added.

The senator also cited Baguio City’s contact tracing scheme, which relies on the geographical information system platform to plot the areas where possible COVID-19 carriers live

“With these technologies, we can potentially save P11.7 billion being asked by the Department of Health for contact tracers. I share Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s sentiment that there are more practical uses for the amount,” he said, noting that the budget could be used for livelihood programs for those severely affected by community quarantine triggered by the COVID-19 crisis.

The DOH earlier said it is planning to hire more than 95,000 contact tracers to meet the World Health Organization’s recommended ratio of one tracer in every 800 people.

The proposed fund will be used to hire these contact tracers for three months.

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