Senator Risa Hontiveros described the Department of Health’s or DOH budget for 2021 as “anemic” as the agency falls behind the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of the Interior and Local Government and other two agencies.
“Tinitipid po ba natin ang ating health sector sa tulong at suporta?” the senator asked.
Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado answered the government has to balance the act of saving the economy and the lives of Filipinos amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is true that the the government aims to boost the health sector to address the COVID-19 pandemic. However, may we also emphasize that we cannot rely on the budget of the DOH alone in order to reduce the impact of COVID-19,” he said.
Avisado said the DOH budget has actually been increased for 2021.
“The budget of DOH stands at P104.493 billion while for next year it has been increased to P131.721 billion or an increase of 26% more or less,” Avisado said.
Avisado added that although the DPWH’s P667.3-billion budget allocation is way bigger compared to DOH, the infrastructure projects are seen to generate 1.1 million direct and indirect jobs. This will “also catalyze other business activities all over the country,” he said.
DOH budget for 2021
The budget chief said that giving jobs is better than merely giving dole-outs such as cash aid under the government’s social amelioration program (SAP).
Senator Franklin Drilon also questioned the DOH national budget, saying there is “something wrong” in it.
“I question the reduction of the DOH budget from the present P153 billion as adjusted versus P131 billion, which is in the 2021 budget,” he said.
“We need to improve our testing, we need to improve our contact tracing, and our ability to treat,” Drilon added.
“Next year, what will be covered mostly are the consumables, the test kits, and we wanted to ensure that there will be more than enough consumables to respond to the capital investments that we had this year as well as the purchase of PPEs,” Avisado answered.
The 2021 national budget also allocated P71.4 billion for Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) aside from the P131 billion DOH budget.