DBM: Additional P451.31 million released for health workers’ risk allowance

Robie de Guzman   •   September 29, 2021   •   479

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Wednesday said it has released an additional P451.31 million for the Special Risk Allowance (SRA) of eligible public and private healthcare workers (HCWs) in the country.

In a statement, the agency said the fund is for the SRAs of healthcare workers who are directly catering to or are in contact with COVID-19 patients from December 20, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

“Of this amount, P407.08 million was charged from the Contingent Fund while P44.23 million was charged from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund under the FY 2021 General Appropriations Act,” the budget department said.

Overall, the DBM has already released a total of P8.23 billion.

The department added that the budget has benefitted about 499,116 healthcare workers who each received an SRA not exceeding P5,000 per month for the covered period.

The SRA is an additional benefit received by healthcare workers, apart from the existing compensations as prescribed under the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers and the DOH-DBM Joint Circular No. 1, series of 2016, the DBM said.

Senate panel approves COA, Ombudsman proposed 2022 budget

Maris Federez   •   October 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate Committee on Finance on Tuesday approved the proposed budget of two constitutional bodies for 2022.

Senator Sonny Angara called the budget deliberation of the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Ombudsman the shortest so far for this year, as the panel gave its approval under 15 minutes of the hearing.

The committee hearing for COA’s proposed budget of P14.4 billion only took 10 minutes and was soon endorsed for the nod of the plenary.

“No questions on the part of the Chair. […] this is probably the shortest budget meeting of this 2022 budget,” Angara said during the hearing.

Indicated in COA’s proposed budget is its request for additional funds for personnel services for the third tranche of the pay adjustments under the salary standardization law for government employees.

COA also requested a budget increase for the construction of provincial satellite auditing offices and provision for the operational expenses of these branches.

“We have written a letter to the committee asking for additional budgetary support primarily on the MOOE (Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses) […] and possibly if the budget is flexible enough, maybe additional capital outlay,” said COA chairperson Michael Aguinaldo.

COA has, so far, completed the construction of 54 satellite offices, and 17 more under construction.

Meanwhile, it only took the Senate panel 13 minutes to finish the hearing of the P3.9 billion budget of the Office of the Ombudsman that was recommended by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Ombudsman Samuel Martires appealed for additional funding for its operational budget that was cut by almost half by the DBM.

“We’re not asking too much. If it will be hard for the Senate to give us the proposed budget for 2022, then we just would like to request that at least the budget that was given to us for 2021 be retained,” Martires said.

The Senate is currently on recess and is expected to resume on November 8 wherein senators are expected to start the deliberation of the national budget in the plenary. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Doctors group urges Duterte to reverse order barring Cabinet members from attending Senate hearing

Maris Federez   •   October 11, 2021

 

MANILA, Philippines — A group of doctors appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to reverse his order barring  Cabinet members from attending the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s hearing on the alleged anomalous procurement of COVID-19 supplies.

The group wants the Senate hearing to continue the hearing, questioning why the Department of Health (DOH) transferred the said procurement to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

This, despite the earlier clarification made by the Commission on Audit that there was no overpricing in the procurement of COVID-19 supplies and that the said government transaction went through careful inspection.

“Kung bakit ipinasa ng Department of Health ang pagbili nung mga protective equipment na ito sa Department of Budget (and Management), sa DBM. ‘Yun pa lang hindi ma-explain, kase ang ipinapasa lang po talaga sa DBM ay yung mga administrative. ‘Yung mga may kinalaman sa administrative part which means yung mga office supplies, ang mga protective equipment, definitely this is a health. This should actually belong to the Department of Health,” said the group’s president, Dr. Maricar Limpin.

The group also defended the manner of questioning of some senators on the resource persons, saying that there was no bullying that was taking place during the hearing.

“Sa paningin ko yun ay part ng pagku-cross examine, at different personalities have different way of trying to get information. Whatever form na ginagawa nila in order to extract the truth, kase hindi siya maliit na pera. Forty-two billion. At napunta po iyong deal na iyan, yung kontrata, sa isang maliit na kumpanya,” Dr. Anthony Leachon, former president of PCP, said.

The group appeals to the Senate to finish the hearing on the said issue and forward the result of their investigation to the Department of Justice or the Office of the Ombudsman for appropriate action.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that the administration will no longer allow Cabinet members and other officials in the Executive Department to attend any succeeding Senate hearings.

“In fact, they appeared before 12 hearings of the Senate and the House and he only said itigil na iyan, after 12. Kasi wala namang bago pong tinatanong at walang bagong sagot,” Roque said. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Janice Ingente)

Senators slam lack of funding for health worker benefits in 2022 national budget

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—Several senators are questioning the lack of funding for healthcare worker benefits in the 2022 national budget.

Senator Franklin Drilon, during the briefing of the Development Budget Coordination Committee on Thursday (September 9), urged concerned agencies to “fix budget priorities” and lamented that the budget for next year is not in line with the reality being faced by the country.

The senator questioned why there is no allotted budget for the Special Risk Allowance (SRA) and hazard pay for healthcare workers while the National Task Force to End Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has a P28 billion budget. He also questioned why the P45 billion budget for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots is placed under unprogrammed funds.

“We see that the public health is not given priority that it deserves,” he said. “Are we saying that insurgency has become a bigger, more dangerous threat than COVID-19 and its fast mutating variants?”

Marami pong pagkukunan ng budget itong kampanya laban sa insurgency. Hindi po kailangang maghiwalay pa tayo ng 28 billlion (We can get budget for the campaign against insurgency, there is no need to allot P28 billion for it) in the face of all these difficulties that we are facing, and in the face of the fact that our health personnel are not being given special risk allowance,” he added.

Senator Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan and Senator Risa Hontiveros believe the budget should be fixed in order to address the threat of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

Hontiveros likewise lamented that there is no allotted budget for healthcare workers.

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? Bigyan naman natin ng dignidad ang ating medical frontliners (Amid the calls and cries our healthcare workers for their SRA, its shameless how next year’s budget has no allotment for their SRA, hazard pay, meal allowance, accommodation, and transportation. Let us at least give our medical frontliners some dignity),” Hontiveros said in a statement.

Senator Joel Villanueva said that the Executive branch should submit an errata to provide benefits for healthcare workers.

He added that a P23 billion budget is needed to double the SRA and active hazard duty pay of around 120,000 healthcare workers in private and public hospitals.

Kung seryoso po ang ating gobyerno sa pagbibigay ng SRA at AHDP para sa ating mga healthcare workers, ang gagawin lang naman ng DBM at DOH ay magpadala ng budget errata sa Senado at sa House of Representatives, (If our government is serious in providing SRA and AHDP to our healthcare workers, the Department of Budget and Management and Department of Health can simply send a budget errata to the Senate and House of Representatives),” he said.

Meanwhile, Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez said it was him who proposed to include COVID-19 booster shots in the budget, however, experts panels and health authorities said the country still does not need booster shots for COVID-19.

“I had a big argument with them and in fact the result is that it is actually the budget. Had we not argued with that, it would not even be in the budget because they said it’s not yet proven, it’s not yet approved, etc. I said I don’t care I said I just want to make sure that we have an item in the budget that we can activate if and when the health authorities decide that it is required,” he said.

The DBM reiterated that there is a need to allot budget for NTF-ELCAC.

“It will actually provide development funds for barangays which have been recently freed of insurgency or leftist elements. If government will not intervene, then who will? That’s the reason why we also assert that the NTF-ELCAC is important. However we defer to the wisdom of Senate, House if they find that these reasons are not sufficient,” according to DBM Officer-in-Charge Usec. Tina Marie Rose Canda.

The Malacañang has yet to provide a response to the senators’ concerns. AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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