MANILA - Some 16,000 health workers have yet to receive their hazard pay for manning the medical frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic due to lack of funding, the Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday.
The government disbursed some P842 million for the hazard pay of 86,348 medical frontliners, but 16,764 health workers have not received the benefit, said Sen. Pia Cayetano who was sponsoring the DOH's proposed 2021 budget in plenary.
"The reason for this is there is no more funding," she said.
"They just have enough for the length Bayanihan was in effect... so for the new hires, that might have to be a separate appropriation," she said, referring to the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the Philippines' first COVID-19 aid package.
The government needs P108.2 million more to cover the hazard pay of the 16,000 health workers, she said.
Under President Rodrigo Duterte's Administrative Order No. 35, health workers are entitled to receive a P3,000 hazard pay for every month of duty.
Administrative Order No. 36 grants health frontliners an additional "COVID special risk allowance not exceeding P5,000 per month."
While 60,682 health workers have received their special risk allowance, there are still those who remain unpaid, Cayetano said.
"DOH is seeking clarification from various agencies... to get clarification if the public health workers at the central and regional offices of the DOH are entitled to receive it," she said.
"There are health workers who are technically not in the frontlines... They are waiting for the legal opinion of the Department of Justice," she said.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who inquired about the status of benefits for health workers, urged the government to continue financing special benefits for medical workers who are crucial players in the country's fight against the global pandemic.
"We do not want to go into the bureaucratic quagmire... where none of the frontliners who fell and died have not received the support that was due them," he said.
Cayetano said the DOH "intends to request" for another budget to cover the program through the passage of a third Bayanihan law.
Senators earlier agreed to pass a resolution urging the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release the remaining funds under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) to continuously fund the government's COVID-19 response programs.
As of October, the DBM has released P78 billion, about half of the P165-billion funding the government is authorized to spend under the Bayanihan 2.