Up in arms

Earlier this month the urban-poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) deviated from its standard practice of organizing rallies in the usual sites—Mendiola, among others—and adopted a more daring protest tactic: occupying still-unfinished government housing projects, at first, in two towns in Bulacan and, lately, in Rodriguez, Rizal.

When told about this, President Duterte said something to the effect that this is pure and simple anarchy, but did not say what move he would take.

The government’s decision to allow negotiations with the militant group identified with the mainstream Left, instead of sending police and soldiers to forthwith evict the settlers from housing built by the National Housing Authority (NHA), could be part of the Duterte administration’s effort to pursue the peace process with the National Democratic Front.

After occupying six low-cost housing projects in Bulacan, Kadamay members attempted on March 18 to occupy vacant houses in two sites in Rodriguez town, Rizal province, but were stopped by the police and National Housing Authority (NHA) personnel.

Four days later, at least 500 Kadamay members tried to reenter the La Solidaridad premises, barricading a road leading to Eastwood Side subdivision, also in Rodriguez. But policemen and soldiers, assisted by NHA personnel, secured the project sites.

According to Baque Corp., the project developer, the La Solidaridad houses were constructed for soldiers, policemen and firemen. More than 500 families live in the estates, which have a total of 2,000 houses. At least 243 firemen moved there in April 2015. Kadamay members have reportedly occupied some 5,262 houses since March 8. But the NHA has issued notices to families occupying a total of 764 houses in Pandi, Bulacan, to vacate the premises, or else face eviction.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) has defended the action of Kadamay members by saying that the right to adequate housing is “universally recognized”. It has also urged an investigation of alleged “corruption and criminal negligence” in the NHA that led to the waste of billions of pesos in public funds on abandoned housing units.

How will the Duterte administration now deal with this unarmed uprising by urban-poor families via occupation of government housing projects? Will there be a peaceful resolution of the standoff through negotiations? What if dialogue fails? Will the police and the military be called in to firmly assert government authority?

Affordable medicines

WE can look forward to lower prices of lifesaving medicines soon.

That is, if a mandatory price-reduction scheme is put in place by the Duterte administration through the Department of  (DOH). According to Health Secretary  Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial, the government is “determined to maximize the instruments provided in the law and undertake reforms to ensure that we bring prices down for consumers overall and increase government subsidy that will ease the burden of patients”.  The goal of the mandatory price-reduction scheme is to make prices of medicines that are higher in the Philippines, compared to our Asian neighbors, brought down to affordable levels.

The DOH will soon create a council of experts that will review all the prices of drugs in the market and submit recommendations to Duterte for the regulatory pricing.

The agency wants to implement a Maximum Drug Retail Price (MDRP) scheme to reduce costs.

With the prohibitive cost of medicines here, we do not really have a sustainable health system, even as we already benefit from Republic Act (RA) 9502 (or Cheaper Medicines Act) and RA 6675 (Generics Act of 1988) that seek to reduce high drug prices. Generics now account for 65 percent of total pharmaceutical sales, compared to only 40 percent in previous years.

To complement these, the DOH will ensure the wider use and availability of generic drugs through the Philippine Health Agenda Medisina ng Bayan program. This program aims to ensure accessibility to safe, effective and quality medicines for all patients in all government health facilities, with priority to be given to the marginalized, underserved and vulnerable segments of the population.

The 1987 Constitution provides that the State shall adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development. Cheaper medicines are part and parcel of government efforts to ensure health for all Filipinos.

 

E-mail: ernhil@yahoo.com.

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