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Health workers a priority
Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah “Mina” F. Pangandaman underscores the importance of healthcare workers and pledges her dedication to ensuring that arrears of the Health Emergency Allowance (HEA) are fulfilled by the end of 2025 during the public hearing and inquiry of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography on Monday, 20 May 2024.
Priority po namin kayo [healthcare workers]. Ang HEA po ay nasa SONA (State of the Nation Address) ng ating Pangulo. Tuwing nagkikita po kami ay pinapaalala po niya 'yan. Ang promise ko po, by 2025, mababayaran po natin 'yan,” stated Sec. Pangandaman.
To date, the DBM has disbursed a total of P91.283 billion to DOH for the Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances (PHEBA), covering all benefits for healthcare workers from 2021 to 2023. Of this amount, P73.261 billion has been allocated specifically for HEA.
PHEBA includes Special Risk Allowance (SRA), compensation for COVID-19 sickness and death, as well as additional benefits like meals, accommodation, and transportation allowances for healthcare workers.
During the session, Secretary Pangandaman outlined the DBM’s strategy to tackle the remaining P27.7 billion arrears for the HEA, which was presented by the DOH during a technical budget hearing held earlier this month. The first step involves utilizing a P2.3 billion unprogrammed appropriations (UA) fund, contingent upon the collection of excess revenue.
Ipipila po natin ito [sa UA]. Naghihintay nalang po tayo ng certification from the Bureau of Treasury sa excess revenue,” explained Sec. Pangandaman, emphasizing the conditional nature of the UA. Last year, an additional P7 billion, taken from the UA, was released for HEA.
The DBM will likewise look into the internal budget of DOH and identify possible realignment for the program.
Sec. Mina also committed that the necessary resources to address the deficiencies in HEA would be prioritized in the drafting of the 2025 National Budget.
DOH Secretary Teodoro Herbosa, on the other hand, thanked the Senate Committee on Health as well as the DBM for aiding in the resolution of all HEA concerns. “We’ve been able to receive the budget from the DBM from the 2022 and 2023 GAA (General Appropriations Act), and we’ve been able to disburse almost 99%,” mentioned Sec. Herbosa.
For fiscal year 2024, the DBM has comprehensively released a total of P19.996 billion to the DOH. However, Sec. Herbosa admits that there have been challenges in the disbursement of the fund. “As for the budget this year, nasa 48% palang ang aming disbursement pero nasa amin na, tulad nga sabi ni Sec. Mina.” disclosed Sec. Herbosa.
The Budget Secretary, meanwhile, urged healthcare worker representatives to collaborate closely with DOH to ensure the smooth implementation and timely disbursement of HEA.
Ang implementation po ay nasa DOH. Makipagtulungan po tayo sa DOH para sa tamang listahan (HEA mapping). Through that, makikita lahat ng nagrerequest at nabigyan. Let’s make sure ang mapupuntahan po nito ay sa tamang beneficiaries,” clarified Sec. Pangandaman.
Senator Bong Go lauded the developments from the meeting. “Ako po ay natutuwa at nagpapasalamat na kapag nagsama ang DBM at DOH sa kanilang obligasyon sa health emergency allowance, magiging posible po ito na matapos po,” said Senate Committee on Health and Demography Chair.
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