The proposed Department of Health (DOH) budget for next year’s operations of government-run drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation centers will get a massive P2.31 billion cut under the 2018 national budget bill.
The DOH has a proposed gross 2018 budget of P164.8 billion, 9 percent up from this year’s P151.3 billion. Both of the amounts cover payment of PhilHealth coverage for poor families.
From P3.08 billion this year, next year’s budget for DOH-managed rehabilitation facilities will go down to P759.6 million, a 75 percent reduction, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.
“If drug addiction is a disease, is this budgetary prescription from our health officials the right one?” Recto said.
“The word from the DOH is that private donations will make up for the difference. If that is the case, DOH should submit a listing of where the replacement funds would come from because that is too big a vacuum to fill,” the veteran legislator said.
“The unofficial explanation is that the so-called ‘mega rehab centers’ will be built by private donors. Fine. But what about the manning of those centers? The training of personnel? Are the funds sought enough?” the seasoned lawmaker said.
According to media reports, five regional drug treatment and rehabilitation centers are being constructed in Isabela, Mountain Province, Palawan, Zamboanga and Taguig City, all funded by private money.
The reduced P759.6 million budget being sought for 2018 will be used to run 14 drug abuse treatment and centers, one of which will be opened next year, and to support the operation of the “mega rehab center” a Chinese tycoon built in Nueva Ecija.
“Is that money enough for the DOH hospitals with drug rehabilitation programs? Will it be enough to support community-level abatement programs?” the senator said.
Recto said the lack of rehabilitation centers will cripple the “declared government policy” to help substance abusers turn over a new leaf.
“The existing policy is still ‘save the users’ and not ‘salvage the users.’ For as long as that policy remains, then government is duty-bound to help those who have volunteered for treatment by providing a new path to a better life for them,” he said.
Recto said government’s anti-drug drive hinges not on the mass killing of drug-dependents on their mass rehabilitation.
“Di ba ang approach ngayon ay tokhang, toktok-hangyo (knock and appeal)? Ang sabi ng mga pulis, doon sa mga gustong magbago, magsabi lang at tutulungan namin kayo,” he said.
Sa ganung division of labor, law enforcement will stop the supply, and Health officials and other offices will help the victims under a comprehensive program. The latter would require reception facilities,” Recto said.
He said the DOH, in a briefing paper, assured that facilities included in the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP), which has a proposed 2018 budget of P29 billion, will form part of government network to help substance abusers.
“Again, if that is the intention, Congress must be given the details,” Recto said.