'Not a 'pandemic budget': CURE COVID raises questions about proposed 2022 budget

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 10 2021 01:30 PM

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MANILA – The 2022 proposed budget to be discussed by the Senate Wednesday is still not responsive enough to the needs of the Filipino people amid the pandemic, an advocacy group said.

“As we see it, while it is the biggest budget so far, we still see that it fails to be a pandemic budget that can answer to the specific needs of the people in the communities and specially services needed very much for the people who are getting sick and need to be treated,” said Dr. Julie Caguiat, spokesperson of Citizens Urgent Response to End COVID (CURE COVID).

“For the whole budget, we still see prioritization in terms of giving so much to the military, and then to the defense department, to the payment of debts, and also the big budgeted 'Build Build Build' program of the government. Which in the long run can be important also,” she noted.

“But for the present time, we think [this] can still be diverted to purposes which will directly redound to a better pandemic response for the Philippines,” she said.

Under the proposal, the Department of Health (DOH) is getting P226 billion from the proposed P5.024 trillion national budget. This is the third biggest allotment, behind the Department of Education’s P738.6 billion and the Department of Public Works and Highways’ P665.5 billion.

“One of the main concerns for us is the amount that has been given to health. The healthcare budget has always been too rigid, yearly, in and out with many of the support mechanisms specially in terms of facing the pandemic,” Caguiat said.

Caguiat noted the proposed budget cuts in 2022 for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and other entities under the DOH.

“The RITM, even the East Avenue Medical Center which are DOH hospitals that are very important in terms of controlling the pandemic, and also support mechanisms like the epidemiological and surveillance units under the Department of Health and also the other support mechanisms like the nutrition council all of them have suffered budget cuts and these are very important during this time.”

“So it’s not just the RITM, but even the Department of Science of Technology that puts research into medicines or supplements specially that will help in defeating COVID-19,” she said.

“But then again this is very perplexing why this is happening, why it’s under-budgeted.”

Caguiat said they join the call of other health workers who have said that the DOH’s budget for 2022 must be 10 percent of the Philippines’ gross domestic product.

She also said that the decision of the Senate Finance Committee to divert a portion of the government’s anti-communist task force’s budget to the health sector is a “no-brainer” for them.

“Because for us it’s criminal neglect already, not being able to provide what the health workers need at this time, at this challenging time,” she said.

--ANC, 10 November 2021