MANILA— The Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday there were no funds for the special risk allowance of health care workers in the 2022 budget even as the pandemic lingers.
This, just as health workers protested Wednesday to demand the release of their long delayed benefits and hazard pay as frontliners in the fight against the deadly virus.
Responding to inquiries from Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo during the agency’s budget briefing before the House Committee on Health, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III explained that the budget for the SRA was lodged under the proposed Bayanihan 3 bill, which has been approved by the House but remains pending in the Senate.
Quimbo asked about the status of the P311 million released by the Department of Budget and Management last week for the payment of health workers' allowances.
DOH director Larry Cruz explained that of the P311 million, P308 million was already disbursed to various health facilities.
Of the P308 million, P111 million was received by facilities and 1,264 already received their allowances.
Quimbo noted that only 20,000 workers may get their allowances when there was about 148,000 who have to be paid.
She cited that the expired Bayanihan 2 allocated P13.5 billion for the allowances, which means the P311 million released is not enough.
Quimbo said health care workers should have received an average of P34,000 in special risk allowances each. That means there was a funding shortfall of P5 billion.
When Quimbo asked if this was covered by the 2022 National Expenditure Program as she noted there wasn't an entry for the SRA in the 2022 DOH budget, Duque confirmed that the SRA budget was instead lodged in the Bayanihan 3 bill, which awaits Senate action.
Quimbo pointed out this means that the SRA of health care workers hangs in the balance as there was no assurance that the Bayanihan 3 bill would become law.
Bayanihan 3 only carried over the expired Bayanihan 2’s provision for the special risk allowance. The Bayanihan laws are special emergency response laws passed during the pandemic.
Quimbo told ABS-CBN News separately lawmakers also did not allocate a specific amount under Bayanihan 3, which means payments for the SRA really depend on the General Appropriations Act.
Duque said they had submitted a series of budget requirements to the DBM.
Meanwhile, in a press release, Gabriela Women’s Party expressed support for medical frontliners staging protest actions across the country for the release of overdue benefits and for Duque's resignation.
"Duque should step down to get his sought-after sleep. Magbitiw ka na Secretary kasi pinatulog mo ang bilyon-bilyong pondo ng DOH na dapat sana’y pinakikinabangan ng frontliners ngayon," Assistant Minority Leader Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas said.
(You should resign Secretary because you put billions of funds of DOH to sleep instead of being used by the frontlinters.)
The party-list group said it would push for the immediate passage of House Bill No. 9640 providing for a P15,000 special risk allowance and P5,000 active hazard pay for all health workers.
The House Minority lawmaker is also urging the Senate to fast-track the passage of Bayanihan 3, which contains a provision on allowances and benefits for health workers.