Robredo bares plans to ‘free’ Philippines from COVID-19

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Robredo bares plans to �free� Philippines from COVID-19
Vice President Leni Robredo discusses her plans for 'freeing' the Philippines from COVID-19 in a video posted November 3, 2021 on her social media accounts.
Office of the Vice President / Release

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo, who is running for president in the 2022 elections, unveiled a comprehensive plan to “free” the country from the pandemic, which includes investments to the long-neglected public health system and major changes to the current COVID-19 response.

“Narating natin ang plano sa pagkokonsulta sa mga eksperto, mga sektor, at higit sa lahat, sa harapang pagsaksi sa dinadaanan ng Pilipino,” Robredo said in a video posted on her social media accounts on Wednesday.

(We arrived at these plans after consultations with experts and sectors, and above all, being direct witnesses to what Filipinos are facing.)

Among Robredo’s plans to improve the country’s healthcare system is to double the government’s spending on it from P113 billion or just 0.6% of the country’s gross domestic product, as recommended by the Department of Health in its Philippine Health Facility Development Plan 2020-2040.

Robredo also set a goal of increasing hospital beds nationwide to bring its number closer to that of Singapore’s and Vietnam’s, where there are 2.5 beds and 2.6 beds for every 1,000 people, respectively.

Along with increasing hospital beds, Robredo also wants to hire more healthcare workers, procure more equipment and reorganize the shifts of doctors and nurses.

She is also pushing for the building of field hospitals in regions where there are not enough hospital beds and the creation of 2,400 rural health units and health centers by 2025.

The vice president also wants to fast-track the implementation of the universal healthcare law by enrolling every Filipino into the program in three months using the national ID system.

She also eyes placing nurses in every barangay who will be in touch with a doctor through technology.

“This means: Every Filipino, wherever you are, will immediately have someone to turn to if they feel something in their body — and they don’t have to travel very far to consult with a medical professional,” Robredo said in Filipino on her website.

Robredo also plans to appoint “good leaders” into the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. who are experts in health insurance and have a good understanding of the objectives of the state health insurer.

This is on top of the formation of a team that will examine the outstanding balance of PhilHealth and make recommendations on how it can avoid paying claims late.

Major tweaks to pandemic response

The vice president is pushing for major changes to the country’s response to the pandemic, starting with a new leader who will be backed by a team of experts, including current and permanent employees of the DOH.

She also wants to cut down the number of members in the government’s pandemic task force so it can be more agile and appoint a representative who will primarily focus on the needs of local governments.

All this while assuring that different groups of experts will be consulted to ensure that protocols and policies that will be implemented will be based on science.

Robredo vows to make testing accessible to Filipinos so the country’s coronavirus positivity rate goes below 5%, as recommended by the World Health Organization. Should there be a spike in cases, she says, testing will be increased so the ideal positivity rate is reached.

She also promised to make testing free and regular for healthcare workers and teachers. 

She added that healthcare workers will get hazard pay, paid COVID-19 leaves on top of existing sick leaves, medical insurance and allowance for food and transportation. She said she will also push for the regularization of healthcare workers and their exemption from the Personnel Salary Cap.

She also wants a centralized, interconnected and uniform contact tracing system instead of the current one where local governments use different contact tracing applications.

Meanwhile, for coronavirus vaccines, Robredo said she will earmark P50 billion for the procurement of these shots which will be given through a national vaccination distribution network composed of strengthened local health units.

More aid for all

She wants to create a free and safe mobile testing system for communities with high cases of COVID-19, with those testing positive getting two weeks’ worth of aid.

Robredo plans to earmark P216 billion from the national budget for aid which she wants to be distributed quickly using the national ID system. 

She is also pushing for a stimulus package of at least P100 billion for small businesses which would be required to keep their workers employed.

She also wants to create a National Unemployment Insurance Program that will give workers who are laid off 80% of their salary for three months.

Aid will also be given to those in areas under granular lockdowns, which Robredo is also pushing for instead of widespread lockdowns. Mass testing and contact tracing will be implemented in areas under lockdown, she said.

Included in the aid that will be distributed to people are food packs that include fresh produce from farmers and fishers which will be bought directly by the government from them.

Opening schools

Robredo promises to earmark P68 billion for educational aid amounting to P300 every month that there are classes to each student for mobile credits and printing of modules.

She is also batting for the safe reopening of schools based on a risk assessment map which would show which areas have low or high prevalence of COVID-19.

For students in areas with a high number of COVID-19 cases, Robredo said they will each receive a gadget loaded with worksheets, modules and other study materials that can be used even without an internet connection.

Robredo added that she wants to partner with internet service providers and telecommunications companies so more students will be able to access educational websites and online resources for free.

Expanding OVP programs

Robredo’s office has been praised for its stellar response to the pandemic despite the meager budget it receives and the vice president plans to expand these should she get elected into office.

She said her administration will partner with private service providers to expand telemedicine consultations nationwide, which she said can be accomplished in two years. She wants each barangay to be given a device to make sure that teleconsultations can be made even in remote areas.

“This way, those who want to consult a doctor or get regular checkups do not need to go to hospitals; they will avoid the danger of getting infected with COVID,” Robredo said in Filipino.

Robredo also wants to expand her office’s programs for skills training, livelihood grants and online jobs-matching platforms.

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