DBM junks ₱13B for health workers’ MAT, SRA

 

The Department of Budget and Management ‘could not accommodate’ the budget request intended to benefit healthcare workers, it announced.


 

MANILA — It is difficult to accommodate the request for ₱13 billion to cover health workers allowances for meals, accommodation, and transportation, the DBM says.

“Ang meal, accommodation, and transportation allowance kasi…is supposed to be charged ‘yan against DOH budget,” says DBM Undersecretary Tina Rose Marie Canda during a Palace briefing.

Under the DOH’s allocation, the request could not be accommodated, Ms Canda points out.

“‘Yan ang malinaw doon sa approval galing sa Office of the President. Kaya lang sobrang laki at dami ng claims. So, medyo mahirap i-accommodate ‘yan sa loob ng budget ng DOH,” says Ms Canda.

[The meal, accommodation and transportation allowance is supposed to be charged against the budget of the DOH. That is clearly stated on the approval, which came from the Office of the President. However, the size of funds needed and number of claims are huge.]

The DBM released ₱311 million additional funds for health workers’ COVID-19 special risk allowance (SRA) only amid resounding calls from medical groups for the release of their long-sought-after benefits.

The DOH on Tuesday said it already disbursed over ₱237 million of the additional ₱311 million funds released for the COVID-19 special risk allowance (SRA) for the additional 20,000 health workers.

However, they did not include those for MAT (meals, accommodation, and transportation) allowance.

House hearing

During a House hearing, Health secretary Francisco Duque III admitted to Congresswoman Stella Quimbo that the frontliners’ SRA (special risk allowance) funds were among those affected by the budget cut.

The health secretary is counting on the the passage of the Bayanihan 3 to fund their benefits for 2022, he said. However, Congresswoman Quimbo said that the SRA is not part of the proposed law.

After a series of query and responses from the DOH panel, it appears that the SRA is not at all included in the agency’s budget agenda.

Mr Duque has requested that the department be given more time to asses which funds can be realigned for the SRA.

“Give us time and we will identify…what these programs or activities and projects (are), which yield the lowest impact among all that we have been implementing,” says the health secretary.

Wednesday’s protest rally

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s protest rally by healthcare workers staged in front of the DOH central office decries the still unreleased benefits such as their SRA, meals, accommodation, and transportation allowances.

The rallyists also sought for the resignation of secretary Duque for neglecting them, government professionals who deserve equal protection as the pandemic affects everyone, they said.

According to Romeo Garcia, president of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine Employees Association-Alliance of Health Workers, in a statement, “We waited 10 days for nothing.”

“The final countdown is over. No amount of benefits landed in our hands. Where did the billions of funds that were not used for our benefits go?” he added.

Over 1000,000 our of 526,000 health workers have not yet received their SRA, according to health undersecretary and treatment czar Leopoldo Vega on Wednesday admitted. (JD

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