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Another P11.5 billion released for COVID-19 allowance

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star
Another P11.5 billion released for COVID-19 allowance
Health workers attend to patients at the Mandaluyong City Medical Center on Wednesday (January 5, 2022).
Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has released P11.5 billion in COVID allowance that will benefit over 1.6 million health care workers in the country.

Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman has approved the release of P11.5 billion to the Department of Health (DOH) to cover the One COVID Allowance (OCA) or health emergency allowance claims.

The budget will benefit some 1.6 million public and private health care and non-health care workers who were not able to claim their allowances from January to June this year.

The latest release will cover the unfunded portion of at least 2.6 million approved claims by the DOH, with a total funding requirement of P18.7 billion.

Almost P8 billion was released last February to cover nearly one million allowance claims.

The provision of OCA is pursuant to a DOH provision under this year’s budget that allocates mandatory benefits and allowances to public and private health care workers during the pandemic and other future public health emergencies.

The latest release for OCA comes roughly a month after DBM and DOH were in disagreement over documentary requirements needed for the budget.

The DBM earlier said the DOH lacked certain documents needed to process the release of the budget for the health workers.

The DOH has been requesting the release of P63 billion.

Apart from the P11.5 billion, the DBM also released P1.04 billion to cover the special risk allowance (SRA) of eligible public and private health workers.

The DOH has given assurance of the immediate distribution of OCA and SRA to eligible health care workers.

“Our health care workers are the backbone of our health care system, and it is incumbent upon us to ensure that they are protected through fair compensation and benefits,” DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a statement.

“We thank the DBM for releasing these funds and we pledge to expend all our efforts to compensate our dear health care workers for their unwavering service to every Juan and Juana during this pandemic,” Vergeire added.

The DBM released P1.04 billion for the payment of the remaining 55,211 unpaid SRA for eligible health care and non-health care workers from September 2020 to June 2021. The P11.5 billion, on the other hand, will be processed by the DOH for the payment of 1,617,660 unpaid health emergency allowance/OCA covering January 2022 to June 2022.

Extra budget

Anakalusugan party-list has lauded the move of the DBM to approve the allocation of extra P1.04 billion for the back pay of COVID-19 frontliners.

“With gratitude, we welcome the decision of DBM in allotting additional funds for our frontliners,” Rep. Ray Florence Reyes said in a statement.

Reyes noted more funds are actually needed but at least their “call is beginning to bear fruit.”

The lawmaker was reacting to the announcement of DBM on Tuesday that it had approved the release of Special Allotment Response Order amounting to P1.04 billion to the DOH.

This will cover the SRA of eligible public and private health workers involved in COVID-19 health care response.

The fund will be for the unpaid COVID-19 SRA claims of 55,211 health workers, who shall receive a grant amounting to P5,000 for every month they serve during the state of national emergency.

Reyes added they hope that more unused available funds are found and sourced for the P73 billion overdue allowances of health workers.

“Until the health care system is given due attention, we will neither stand idly by nor keep mum. We will continue the legislative push to increase the allocation of our health sector for concerned departments to act,” he maintained.

For the proposed national budget of DOH for 2023, the DBM had slashed some P75 billion worth of arrears for health care workers.

Instead, the DBM earmarked only P19 billion which the DOH stated will only cover three months of back wages. – Mayen Jaymalin, Sheila Crisostomo

COVID-19

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