Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel III said that nurses and doctors, who he called the pandemic heroes, should not be made to bear the brunt of the budget cuts in the name of fiscal tightening.

“To cut the health sector’s budget in the name of fiscal tightening is a mistake that can be proven costly, if not deadly. This is not a sound policy given that fact that there is a continuing pandemic. We should not aspire for more fiscal space at the expense of our doctors and nurses who sacrificed their lives health, and welfare in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic,” Pimentel said.

The veteran legislator lamented the inadequate budget to fund the nurses’ salaries and benefits mandated by law as he vowed to scrutinize the Marcos administration’s first spending outlay.

The Senate Committee on Finance will start the examination of the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023.

“Is this how we intend to reward the sacrifices of our pandemic heroes?”

“Is this how we intend to reward the sacrifices of our pandemic heroes?” the seasoned lawmaker lamented.

“Our healthcare workers deserve a raise, praise, and more benefits, not a budget cut,” he stressed.

In the National Expenditures Program for 2023, the Department of Health has been allocated P20 billion for public health emergency benefits and allowances. Another 19 billion has been set aside in the unprogrammed funds.

The funding for unprogrammed funds, the senator noted, may only be released when total revenues exceeded the target or through loan or aid.

The senator said that healthcare workers are entitled to benefits and allowances during the COVID-19 pandemic as mandated in Republic Act No. 11712 or the “Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances for Health Care Workers Act.”

As stated in the law, “the State recognizes the critical role of healthcare workers in providing quality health care and ensuring disease prevention in the general population especially in times of national public health emergencies,” he said.

Section 5 states that qualified healthcare workers are entitled to a health emergency allowance for every month of service and a compensation if they have contracted COVID-19 in the line of duty, Pimentel explained.

He said if the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) wants to create more fiscal space, then it should have examined carefully the lump-sum appropriations in the budget.

“Our healthcare workers deserve a raise, praise, and more benefits, not a budget cut.”

“Trim the intelligence funds, not the health sector’s budget,” Pimentel stressed.

The Office of the President has been allotted P4.5 billion in confidential and intelligence funds while the Office of the Vice President has asked for P500 million confidential funds. The figures do not include yet the confidential and intelligence funds lodged in other agencies, he said.

Pimentel stressed the minority will scrutinize the proposed spending outlay for 2023 “to make things right for our nurses and doctors” and “to ensure accountability in the use of public funds.”



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