Group hits proposed 2021 national budget

NEGROS. San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, co-chair of the Church People-Workers (CWS) Solidarity. (File photo)

"THE proposed 2021 national budget does not guarantee adequate healthcare especially for the poorest of the poor and those severely affected by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic."

This was stressed by San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, who is the co-chair of the Church People-Workers (CWS) Solidarity.

The CWS, in a statement, said research group Ibon Foundation expressed concern over the burgeoning budget on infrastructure amid the worst health crisis and economic decline in the country's history.

The group said Ibon noted that the proposed budget prioritizes infrastructure, debt, and militarization over health and other social services, agriculture and industry.

This is evidenced by the colossal budget for infrastructure projects -- the build, build, build programs -- amounting to P1.1 trillion, it said, adding that it accounts for 24 percent of the total annual budget.

The allocation for infrastructures is higher than the P212.3 billion for health, P454.1 billion for social protection and P5.1 billion for support to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

For the CWS, the proposed budget likewise prioritizes debt-servicing and military expenditure amounting to a total of P740.6 billion over a minimal Department of Health's budget of P131.7 billion or barely one-fifth of one percent of the total infrastructure spending.

Citing further the Ibon data, the group said the proposed P212.3-billion health budget is bigger than last year's allocation, noting that "allotment for facilities enhancement, epidemiological surveillance, laboratories, research, information technology, and human resource capacity management, for instance, were all reduced right when the country's public health system sorely needs a boost."

Declines were also registered in the epidemiology and surveillance program, from P115.501 million to P112.631 million.

Also, in the operations of national reference laboratories, from P326.330 million to down to P289.330 million.

Alminaza said the proposed 2021 national budget is a glaring evidence that Philippine health recovery is not a priority for the [Duterte] administration as only a tiny fraction of which will be allocated for health.

A Catholic vision of health care promotes healthcare system rooted in values that respect human dignity, protect human life, respect the principle of subsidiarity, and meet the needs of the poor and uninsured, Alminaza, citing the statement from the United States Conference of the Catholic Bishop, said.

The Negros bishop pointed out that the growing inequality in health care is due in part to the State's abandonment of duty to protect and provide adequate health services.

"In a time where the county is hit by the worst health crisis and economic meltdown, it needs to prioritize health and social assistance to the most vulnerable sectors of society," he said, adding that "amid economic hardships and massive unemployment, the poor needed not only charity but also justice."

The top church leader added that charity is at the heart of Catholic social teachings.

One, he said, cannot ignore the present, immediate needs of the impoverished in the hope of building a just society.

"Charity is intrinsically linked with justice, for to love others requires that one must first be just towards them. Consequently, the antithesis or negation of charity is injustice, social exclusion, and marginalization," the bishop added.


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