Task force seeks use of P10-B unused SAP funds as aid for COVID-19 patients

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Task force seeks use of P10-B unused SAP funds as aid for COVID-19 patients
This September 5, 2020 photo shows the Mega Isolation Facility at the CarSiGMA (Carmona-Silang-General Mariano Alvarez) Gymnasium.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — The chief implementer of the government's COVID-19 policy wants the unused aid funds given to people who tested positive for the virus to encourage them to isolate themselves in quarantine facilities.

Carlito Galvez, Jr., chief of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, said the P10 billion in unused social amelioration program (SAP) funds would make it easier for local officials to quarantine infected persons in their areas.

"(Interior) Secretary (Eduardo) Año and I are recommending that the unused P10 billion funds of the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) be used as aid for those who tested positive so we can isolate them and their first contacts, so that the LGUs (local government units) would not face difficulties," Galvez told state-run People's Television in Filipino on Thursday.

Galvez said some LGUs are offering incentives and are setting up good quarantine facilities to persuade their constituents who have caught the virus to isolate themselves.

He claimed people are no longer lying about their symptoms because of the government's information drive and the cooperation of mayors and barangay leaders.

"Our countrymen are now aware of what they should do when they have symptoms... LGUs are offering incentives...The quarantine facilities they set up are good and most of them designate hotels (as isolation sites)," Galvez said.

"(With regard to) the worries of doctors that people may hide the symptoms, perhaps it happened in May or June. Now, we have a good information drive...We were able to enhance our risk communication and now, we don't see that problem," he added.

The government has prohibited home quarantine for persons with COVID-19, saying it could lead to a spike in infections.

In a Senate hearing late last month, the DSWD reported that it had released P83.1 billion of the P94.5 billion in aid funds for poor families affected by lockdown measures. The agency still has P10 billion remaining in its funds for the social amelioration program, which was supposed to provide financial assistance to 18 million families.

Galvez said the government needs more than 42,000 additional beds to isolate all persons who caught the virus.

"More or less, we have 7,000 available beds in Metro Manila. All in all, including hotel quarantine facilities, we need more than 42,000 beds so we can isolate all who tested positive

The Duterte administration has proposed a P4.5-billion budget for next year to build quarantine facilities.

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