TO ADDRESS the chronic government underspending, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto sought on Saturday to rechannel a chunk of unutilized funds to sick people, specifically to the indigent patients.

Recto said transferring the underspent budget to health is "one kind of expenditure which will not be bogged by absorptive issues."

"Give that (unitilized funds) to the sick and let's see if that would not be spent at a fast pace," Recto said.

In the first quarter of 2015, government expenditures fell 13 percent off target, following last year's trend of scrimping, which resulted in a budget deficit of P73.1 billion, or about a fourth of what was programmed.

In 2013, the government underspent by P104 billion and by P62 billion in 2012.

"If you have a problem with wholesale spending like big-ticket items that don't move, then go into retail. If money is optimized in projects, which are slow moving, then shift it to the sick who need money for fast-acting cure. (Besides,) there are no absorptive capacity issues to the sick," he added.

Recto said mechanisms are already in place in the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and local government units (LGUs) to handle funds, which can be given as direct aid to indigent patients.

The senator said the funds can be used to augment the purchase of medicine, equipment, and other things needed.

"I'm not saying that health should be the default recipient of stuck-up funds. My prescription is to shift maybe a portion of hard-to-obligate allotment to health because there are waiting, deserving, visible recipients who can spend these fast," the senator said.

While Recto said the public sector budget for health "commendably reached a historic high this year" at P103 billion, the senator stressed that P93.1 billion of which that came from national government is still small on a daily per capita basis.

"The government health spending this year is about P2.36 per person per day. In 2012, if you combined what was utilized by LGUs, GOCCs and national government, it is around P3.44 person per day," Recto said.

In every peso spent by one Filipino for health purposes, Recto said about 19 centavos come from the government, 11 centavos from social insurance, and the biggest, about 57 centavos, is from out-of-pocket.

Recto said that was enough to address the needs of indigent patients, as he noted that "two Filipinos die every hour from heart disease, five from pneumonia, two from diabetes, and three from tuberculosis while 27 suffered from diarrhea and 59 are rushed to emergency room due to hypertension."

"So if government is asking where it can put money which can be spent quickly, then the answer is quite obvious. Give it to the sick and that will also cure underspending," the senator said. (Sunnex)