Public health crisis looms if PH fails to solve health emergencies: Hontiveros

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 04 2019 09:59 AM | Updated as of Nov 04 2019 10:14 AM

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MANILA - The Philippines could face a public health crisis in a few years should it fail to address the current multiple health emergencies, a senator said Monday.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the health department's looming P9 billion budget cut for 2020 should be reinstated.

Former health chief and now Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin earlier said the agency's 2020 fund was slashed by P16.6 billion.

Hontiveros said the country needs a "comprehensive prescription" to solve health emergencies such as the resurgence of polio, a national dengue epidemic, and a measles outbreak after immunization rate dropped due to a dengue vaccine controversy.

"Otherwise, 'pag hindi natin tinugunan, hindi natin inagapan itong multiple health emergencies right now, in several years we could be faced with a public health crisis," she told ANC's Early Edition.

The budget cut would result in some 10,000 jobs lost at the DOH, Hontiveros said.

"That’s about 40 percent of our human resources sa DOH na may bantang ma-displace, we need to retain them in 2020 budget as well as push for sufficient and better salaries and benefits," she said.

Hontiveros said she was confident that the DOH's budget would be reinstated as there is a "bi-partisan consensus" in the Senate.

"The evidence is rich that for every dollar spent for primary health care, preventive health care, we will actually save 3-4 dollars on the other end of the health continuum," she said.

Aside from the vaccine-preventable diseases, Hontiveros said teen pregnancy is a "national social emergency" that government should address, adding that some 530 teenage girls give birth everyday in the country.

The Philippine Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) earlier said some 1.2 million teens get pregnant every year, raising concerns that existing legislation and government policies may not be enough to address the issue. 

The senator agreed and called for the passage of the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Bill, which she said would provide social protection for teen mothers.