MANILA (UPDATE) - Vice President Leni Robredo on Monday gave more details about her "ambitious" COVID-19 response plan that requires at least P500 billion for the payment of all government debts in hospitals and the establishment of a "modern network" for the distribution of cash aid, among other programs.
Robredo said her staff found some P500 billion available in the existing budget that could be used to fund her half-trillion proposal.
"Ilan 'yung discretionary funds na nakikita natin ngayon? Ang Office of the President mayroon siyang P4.5 billion. 'Yung special purpose fund sa iba't ibang opisina ang total nun P54 billion," she said in a press conference.
(How much are the discretionary funds? The Office of the President has P4.5 billion. The special purpose fund from different offices amount to P54 billion.)
"Kailangan maging ambitious tayo kasi ang laki ng problema natin ngayon," she said.
(We have to be ambitious because we are facing a big problem right now.)
Among the items Robredo wants to fund is the full payment of medical claims from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth).
"Tatanggalin ang mga buhol para bumilis ang mga proseso," she said, referring to the state insurer.
(We will untie the knots so that processes can be faster.)
"Babayaran ng PhilHealth ang mga utang sa ospital, perang magagamit ng mga ospital para alagaan tayo," she said.
(PhilHealth will pay hospitals, so that these hospitals can further use that money to take care of us.)
A group of hospitals earlier alleged that PhilHealth's debt is pegged at P86 billion, but the state insurer denied this, saying some P12.9-billion worth of claims is in different stages of processing.
A Robredo administration would also ensure that all medical workers are justly compensated, the Vice President said.
"Alaga sa mga nag-aalaga," she said.
(Care for the caregivers.)
"Gagamitin ang lakas ng ehekutibo para matiyak na ang bawat frontliner ay pasasahurin ng tama. Ang ospital may sapat nakagamitan tulad ng ventilators at kama para kung may nagkakasakit ay hindi na sila pipila," she said.
(We will use the strength of the executive to ensure that each frontliner would be justly compensated. Hospitals would have enough equipment like ventilators, beds so that those who are sick do not have to queue.)
Each barangay health center would also have its own nurse and medical equipment under Robredo's proposal.
COMPETENT HEALTH SECRETARY
These health-related programs would only be effective through the appointment of a competent Department of Health (DOH) secretary, the presidential aspirant said.
"Pipili tayo ng may pananagutan, kayang pasagutin ang burokrasyan, may kaalamang teknikal at may malasakit sa taong bayan," she said.
(We will choose someone who is accountable, who will make the burecracy accountable, who has technical expertise and who empathizes with our countrymen.)
Robredo blamed the Philippines' "slow" COVID-19 pandemic response to the inaction of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, saying the country could have been in a different situation if the DOH did not hesitate in implementing early interventions before the outbreak of the virus.
"Sobrang bagal natin... Ang dami sanang nagawan ng paraan na mabilisan," she said.
(We are so slow... We could have done so many things quickly.)
"Kami sa OVP wala naman kaming masyadong pera, makinarya pero ang dami naming nagawa na immediate," she said, noting how her office mobilized free transportation for workers a day after the Philippines was placed under a lockdown for the first time.
(We in the OVP did not have much funds, machinery, but we were able to do a lot of things immediately.)
'UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE SYSTEM'
Robredo's recovery plan also touches on the labor and education sectors as the vice president pushes to establish an "unemployment insurance system" for Filipinos who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
Under the proposed system, displaced workers will receive 80 percent of their salary for 3 months so that they can sustain their families while looking for a new job.
"Para ang mawawalan ng trabaho may matatanggap mula sa gobyerno. Ang mga arawan ang kita, sasaluhin ng cash for work program," the Vice President said.
The financial assistance may be coursed through existing agencies or through a proposed "modern aid network" meant to simplify the distribution of cash aid, especially in communities under localized lockdowns, she said.
"Bubuo tayo ng modernong ayuda network gamit ang teknolohiya," she said.
(We will create a modern aid network through the use of technology.)
"Kapag may lockdown, walang middleman. Unang araw pa lang, hawak na ninyo ang ayuda," she said.
(If there is a lockdown, there will be no middleman. On the first day, you will receive the aid.)
In August, the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the Department of Social Welfare and Development's (DSWD) failure to disburse some P780-million worth of cash aid during the pandemic.
"Parang ang nangyari kasi sa atin, tinitipid natin for the rainy days na hindi natin nalaanan ng pondo yung dapat paglaanan ng pondo," Robredo said.
(It seems that what happened to us was we tried to save money for the rainy days that we failed to allocate funds for items that should be funded.)
"Umutang tayo nang umutang tapos hindi naman natin nagamit ng tama. Para sa akin crucial siya during crisis situations," she said.
(We borrowed and borrowed money but we did not use it correctly. To me, that is crucial during crisis situations.)
NO 'ONE-SIZE FITS ALL' POLICY
The Vice President said her administration would avoid these mismanagement issues by not implementing a "one-size fits all policy," especially when it comes to lockdowns and education.
"Ligtas na balik-eskuwela program para sa mga low-risk areas, hindi yung one-size fits all sa lahat kahit na iba-iba ang sitwasyon sa buong bansa," she said.
(A safe back to school program should be implemented in low-risk areas, instead of having a one-size fits all policy even if the situations across the country are different.)
"Kung high risk area, bawat bata dapat may gadet at may load na pang-internet para hindi sila mapagiwanan," she said.
(If the area is high risk, each student should be given a gadget with internet load so that they would not be left behind.)
"Makikipag-partner tayo sa mga internet service providers para mas maraming estudyante ang magkaroon ng libreng access sa educational websites at online resources."
(We will create partnerships with internet service providers so more students can have free access to educational websites and online resources.)
After being stripped of a Cabinet position under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, Robredo has been partnering with the private sector to fund her livelihood projects even before the pandemic.
This kind of public-private partnership can be "scaled up" into the national level so that the government will not have to shoulder all expenses, the Vice President said.
"'Yung pag-harness ng private sector to help, napakalaking bagay," she said.
(Harnessing the private sector's help is a big thing.)
"Mahalaga na may confidence yung private sector, na mayroon silang buy-in sa gagawin," she said.
(It is important to secure the confidence of the private sector, that they have a buy-in in what we are doing.)
Robredo said funding her "ambitious" pandemic response program would start with her office should she bag the presidency next year.
"Ano man ang madatnan nating discretionary funds pag-upo natin sa puwesto, idederetso natin sa lahat ng ito sa COVID response," she said.
(Whatever discretionary fund we get when we take office next year, we will direct everything to our COVID response.)
"Nagsisimula ito sa isang lideratong puwedeng pagkatiwalaan na may malinaw na kumpas at magiging mabuting halimbawa para sa lahat."
(This will start with a leadership that is trustworthy and that has a clear direction and will set a good example to everyone.)
Throughout the pandemic, Robredo has been active in initiating her own COVID-19 response efforts—from free swab tests and drive-through vaccinations to providing free shuttle services and accommodations to health care workers.
She also partnered with public and private organizations in her Angat Buhay program to support poor communities through provisions for food security and nutrition, universal health care, public education, rural development, housing and resettlement, and women empowerment.