Duque: Health workers' benefits to be released within the deadline

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Duque: Health workers' benefits to be released within the deadline
Health workers tend to patients inside the COVID-19 emergency response medical tents outside the Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center in Tondo, Manila in this undated file photo.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines — The giving of unpaid benefits to healthcare workers who are in the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19 would be completed within the deadline set by President Duterte, the health department said.

Last Friday, Duterte gave health and budget officials ten days to pay the health workers who have not received their allowances amid fears that the delayed release of allowances could affect the country's pandemic response. The president has also ordered the DOH to use whatever funds the government has to address the complaints of medical frontliners about the slow release of special risk allowances.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said his agency has submitted to the budget department all documents needed to release P311 million for the special risk allowance of an additional 20,156 healthcare workers. The amount will cover services rendered from December 2020 to June 30, 2021.

"We are just waiting for the special allotment release order (SARO) from the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) so we can download it to hospitals as soon as possible," Duque told Duterte during a meeting of the government's pandemic task force last Tuesday.

"Within your prescribed period of ten days, we are hoping... DBM will release the SARO tomorrow, Mr. President. We have been following it up with them, Mr. President. And also, the contingent fund is already being prepared. So we are committed to deliver on the said time frame that you have indicated last Friday," he added.

Last June, the budget department released more than P9 billion for the risk allowance of healthcare workers. However, some medical frontliners complain that they have not received the benefits they are supposed to get under the two Bayanihan laws passed by Congress.

Concerns about the delayed release of healthcare workers' benefits came as the Philippines is wrestling with a rising number of COVID-19 infections that is threatening to overwhelm hospitals.  The rapid increase in the number of infected persons has been tied to the more transmissible Delta variant first reported in India.

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