MANILA - Incoming Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial admitted Monday that the number of state-run drug rehabilitation centers is not enough to accommodate the recent deluge of drug suspects surrendering to authorities.
Citing Department of Health (DOH) records, Ubial said there are 70,000 "hardcore drug users" out of the total 3 million drug dependents in the country.
The bed capacity of existing rehabilitation facilities, on the other hand, only stands at less than 50,000, she said.
Ubial told radio dzMM that the DOH received orders as early as last year to put priority in the construction of rehabilitation facilities, in order to prevent a breach of the occupancy limit.
She said the DOH was also tasked to expand its aftercare services for drug users.
Ubial shared that funds for these efforts were set aside under the 2016 national budget.
"Mayroon na pong mga ginagawang additional wing, additional buildings at mayroon po tayong iniha-hire na additional staff," she added.
Ubial will also study whether additional funds are needed for the project's continuation in 2017.
"Ire-review ko po iyan at titingnan natin iyung actual situation, anong capacity ngayon and what is the projected need in 2017. Pwede po nating ilagay sa budget iyan," she said.
READ: 2,000 drug suspects surrender in S. Kudarat
The incoming health chief said community involvement is needed in fully curing drug dependents. "Ang approach po talaga namin is community effort. Pati po Simbahan tumutulong sa atin sa usapin ng drug rehab."
Ubial hails from M'lang, North Cotabato but grew up in the University of the Philippines (UP)-Diliman campus.
The 53-year-old Ubial started her career in public health in 1988 as a rural health volunteer in Kidapawan, North Cotabato. She became a medical specialist of the DOH in Cotabato City in 1989.
She also served for a time as DOH Regional Director in Davao City, where President-elect Rodrigo Duterte is a long-time mayor.
She is currently an assistant secretary of the DOH Office of Health Regulations.