Senator Joel Villanueva appealed to authorities to tap the P19.445 billion unused 2020 and 2021 “calamity funds” to finance the immediate repair of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) which caught fire recently.

“The PGH should be repaired in the same way that it treats patients – urgently – and the available balance of the Calamity Fund for the two fiscal years can make this possible,” Villanueva suggested.

The veteran legislator described the early morning fire that sent patients – infants in incubators and intubated adults – being wheeled out of safety as a “double calamity”.

“That is the only way to describe the plight of COVID-19 patients ending up as fire victims,” the seasoned lawmaker said.

“Kaya po mahalagang masimulan ang pag-repair sa PGH dahil libu-libong kababayan natin ang umaasa sa kanilang kalinga at aruga,” the chair of the Senate labor committee stressed.

“It is not only the PGH and its patients who suffer but the public too.”

It is not only the PGH and its patients who suffer but the public too, the senator added.

“A PGH with a reduced operational capacity would aggravate the chronic bed shortage for patients with severe COVID-19 and others, like those with cancer, who seek treatment from one of the nation’s best public hospitals,” he explained.

Villanueva said the unused calamity funds could be used to jumpstart the efforts to “build back a better and bigger PGH”.

Under the 2021 national budget, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund (NDRRMF), the Calamity Fund’s official name, has appropriated P20 billion, of which P5 billion is for the Marawi rehabilitation.

Added to this is the unspent P5.14 billion from the 2020 NDRRMF, carried over for 2021 spending, bringing to P25.14 billion the starting year balance of the fund.

But as of April 30, only P2.909 billion has been released, while P2.779 is up for release, leaving P19.445 billion remaining in the calamity fund.

“Provisions of the national budget allow its disbursement for man-made calamities.”

Although the NDRRMF is better known as the “salvation fund” for communities hit by typhoons, floods, drought, earthquakes and other natural calamities, the provisions of the national budget “actually allow its disbursement for man-made calamities such as a town razed down by fire,” he explained.

Even if PGH is covered by insurance, “I am sure that it won’t be enough to replace the damage. Kaya kailangan pong gamitin ang calamity fund,” Villanueva concluded.


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