CAMARINES Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte on Sunday said he wants to know from the Department of Health (DoH) when it intends to pay about P12.57 billion-worth of health emergency allowances due healthcare workers (HCWs) and non-HCWs that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) claimed to have already released to this agency.
“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.
The president of the National Unity Party (NUP), 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 healthcare workers.
Citing a United Private Hospital Unions of the Philippines (UPHUP) report, Villafuerte said that 20,304 HCWs have not received their mandated Covid-19 allowances and other benefits totaling P1.94 billion dating back from October 2021 onwards.
Reacting to this report, however, the DBM subsequently told the media there was no such delay in the release of Covid-19 benefits and allowances.
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. “Rest assured that we will continue to coordinate with the DOH to ensure that the released funds will be disbursed accordingly,” the DBM said.
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?”
Meanwhile, Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte identified over 3,000 beneficiaries from the first district who received their payout on the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) in Davao City.
According to the office of Duterte, 5,430 individuals applied for the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) program.
The latter conducts the assessment after profiling the applicants completed by the First Congressional District Office.
Meanwhile, 3,422 individuals have already received their payout. The distribution is ongoing, as thousands of recipients have yet to receive their payout in upcoming weeks. Among the recipients are carpenters, laborers, shine boys, street vendors, and fire victims.
The First Congressional District Office and the DOLE–Davao have been working together to assist thousands of impoverished residents through the TUPAD program.
TUPAD is a support program for displaced individuals with limited employment opportunities or who work seasonally. It provides immediate assistance to its beneficiaries for at least 10 days, but 30 days at maximum, depending on the specific job requirements.
Displaced, disadvantaged workers, unemployed, and senior citizens were given opportunities by the government in various community improvement projects, including tree planting, gardening, canal de-clogging, and refurbishment of tourist attractions.
Rep. Duterte has committed to aiding individuals who require assistance, while DOLE has ensured the continuity of the TUPAD program.
The lawmaker earlier expressed optimism that the TUPAD program will assist the families of those receiving benefits in these difficult times.