A senior lawmaker wants to know from the Department of Health (DOH) when it intends to pay about P12.57 billion worth of health emergency allowances due health-care workers (HCWs) and non-HCWs.
Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte made the statement after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) claimed to have already released it to the DOH.
“We want to know from the DOH when it intends to release the balance of about P12.57 billion from the P19.96 billion in Covid-19 benefits and allowances due HCWs and non-HCWs for their medical services rendered to our people at the height of the pandemic—and which the DBM claimed to have already shelled out to the health department,” Villafuerte said.
“That our medical frontliners have yet to receive the promised remuneration for their life-saving efforts at the height of Covid-19 a year or two after the WHO (World Health Organization) had already declared this global public health emergency as over, leaves a bad taste in the mouth,” said Villafuerte, the principal author in the House of Representatives of Republic Act (RA) 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” (Bayanihan 1) that provided for such extra benefits to HCWs and non-HCWs.
Villafuerte was also lead sponsor in the House of RA 11494 or the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” (Bayanihan 2), which provided for financial aid or “ayuda” to poor Filipino families, dislocated workers and other Covid-hit sectors; as well as of RA 11712 or the “Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances for Healthcare Workers Act,” which assured the release of such extra pay for HCWs and non-HCWs even after the lapse of the two Bayanihan laws.
Taking the cudgels for HCWs who claimed they have yet to receive their long-due Covid-19 allowances, Villafuerte earlier bewailed the delayed release of such benefits due an estimated 20,000 health-care workers.
The DBM claimed to have already released P19.96 billion to the DOH to pay for the public health emergency benefits and allowances of HCWs and non-HCWs, in accordance with RA 11469 and RA 11712.
It added that of the P19.96 billion in released funds, the DOH already utilized P7.39 billion as of March 31, 2023.
Villafuerte said that with the DBM’s statement, the question that begs to be answered by the DOH is this: “So where is the balance of P12.57 billion ostensibly released by the DBM for the payment of arrears in emergency benefits and allowances due our HCWs and non-HCWs?”
According to the United Private Hospital Union of the Philippines (UPHUP), the still-unpaid benefits of 20,304 HCWs totaled P1.84 billion—comprising One Covid-19 allowance (OCA) worth P985.6 million; P737.5 million worth of health emergency allowance (HEA); special risk allowance (SRA) totaling 16.8 million; and meals, accommodation and transportation (MAT) benefits reaching P6.7 million.
The intended HCW-beneficiaries are working in 23 private hospitals in Metro Manila and in Batangas, Cavite, Cebu and Davao del Sur, said the UPHUP in a report.
Villafuerte said one of the options reportedly being eyed by the DOH to speed up the release of the Covid-19 allowances and other benefits for HCWs was to amend its joint administrative order (AO) with the DBM by tapping authorized government depository banks to clear the way to the direct payment of the OCA and other benefits to the medical frontliners.
Citing DOH data, the UPHUP claimed that just P26.9 billion or 64 percent of the P41.9 billion set aside under the 2023 General Appropriations Act (GAA) had been released thus far by the government.
RA 11712 entitled HCWs to a monthly HEA equivalent to P3,000 for health workers in low-risk areas; P6,000 for those in moderate-risk areas; and P9,000 for medical frontliners in high-risk places.
HCWs are supposed to receive the benefits for the duration of the state of the calamity attributed to the pandemic.