MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he would raise the special risk allowance given to volunteer health workers as coronavirus infections spiked anew.
Duterte, in a taped meeting with officials, asked how much volunteers get. Health Secretary Health Francisco Duque III replied that their special risk allowance was at around P5,000.
"But that will depend, may criteria po tayo, if they are actually directly catering to patients or in contact with COVID-19 patients, iyon po ng binibigyan natin ng special risk allowance," Duque told the President.
(We have criteria, if they are actually directly catering to patients or in contact with COVID-19 patients, we give them special risk allowance.)
For post graduate interns, he said, "We can actually come up with a compensation kasi habang wala pa iyong kanilang board exam results, puwede naman sila magtrabaho, magvolunteer."
(We can actually come up with a compensation scheme because while they are waiting for their board exam results, they can work, volunteer.)
"But we can incentivize by giving them certain amount, we will have to determine that," he added.
However, Duterte replied, "I think that the P5,000 is masyadong maliit ngayon (is too small), considering the attendant danger to the guys."
"Medyo (somehow), they should be given more. Take into account the possibility of danger, they themselves will get the [virus] because they have to go near, and they have to treat those people," he said.
"I will increase, hindi ko pa masabi magkano, wala mang budget [official] dito," Duterte then promised.
(I will increase it, I can't say by how much, there is no budget official here.)
Duque noted the P5,000 allowance is "on top of a much higher compensation."
"Dagdag lang po iyon doon sa binibigay nating mga salaries sa ating mga healthcare workers," he told Duterte.
(It's in addition to the salaries we are giving to our healthcare workers.)
But Duque acknowledged, "Tama po kayo (you are right), P5,000 is a pittance that will not really attract or properly incentivize these volunteers considering the risk the they will face. A much higher amount is in order."
Addressing prospective volunteers, Duterte said of the special risk allowance, "I will raise the amount, basta."
"Tutal, ano ba naman ‘yang pera, ubusin na natin ‘tong pera ng gobyernong ito para sa inyo," he added.
(Anyway, that is just money, let us use up the money of this government for you.)
The Philippines on Thursday reported 17,220 new coronavirus infections and its highest ever COVID-19 positivity rate at 36.9 percent.
The health department has detected 43 cases of the omicron variant, driving a surge in infections worldwide.
The Philippines has limited capacity for genome sequencing.