VICE President Leni Robredo said on Monday, September 6, 2021, that the national government should prioritize the budget allotment for 2022 in the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic especially to ensure the welfare of the healthcare workers.
Robredo earlier said she was tempted to ask the administration for a blanket authority to lead the government’s pandemic response.
“Sa akin we have seen ‘yung mga COA (Commission on Audit) reports, ang una kong gagawin titignan ko how much money do we have now. Ano ba ang available na pera, itatabi natin yun sa kung ano ba ang pinaka kailangan. Halimbawa ang isa sa pinakakailangan ngayon ‘yung pagasikaso sa mga healthcare workers natin,” she said in a television interview.
“Kung ang kulang healthcare workers maghire pa tayo basta asikasuhin natin ang sweldo natin ang mga benefits nila. Kulang ba ng mga highflow oxygen, ventilators? Ito dapat ang pinaka una eh, ano ‘yung available na pera ano ‘yung pinaka kailangan gastusin na yun doon,” she added.
Robredo said based on COA reports, the government has enough budget for Covid-19 response but it lacks proper management in using the funds particularly for the things that are needed the most amid the prevailing pandemic.
She cited the reduced Covid-19 response proposed budget of the Department of Health (DOH) from P73.9 billion to P19.6 billion which resulted for the agency to rely solely on the Bayanihan 3 bill for the funds for the benefits and allowances of healthcare workers.
"Yung una Bayanihan 3 is still a bill. Pangalawa. wala naman itemized appropriation for the benefit of health workers, meaning to say magkakaroon lang ng pera pag may tira. Dun pinapakita ang priorities," said Robredo.
She noted the unused funds allocated to the DOH for Covid-19 response.
“Kung hindi kaya ng DOH (maging absorptive)...dapat maghanap ng paraan. Maghanap ng ibang ahensiyang magiimplement pero hindi pwedeng hindi bigyan ng pera," she said.
Robredo also said she was “puzzled” by the lifting of the travel ban on India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia despite that the Philippines is still facing a spike on Covid-19 cases.
Robredo reiterated the importance of mass testing and efficient contact tracing amid the implementation of community lockdowns to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“Kasi kahit mag-lockdown tayo ng mag-lockdown wala din mangyayari,”she said.
“Itong granular lockdown magiging effective lang ito pag accompanied siya with honest to goodness contact tracing and testing kasi kung wala parang seesaw lang tayo magro-roller coaster lang ulit tayo, since March ganun ang nangyayari,” she added.
Robredo said she thinks that President Rodrigo Duterte is not aware of all the details of the government’s pandemic response.
“’Pag pinapakinggan ko and binabasa ko ang transcript (ng press conferences) may sense ako na hindi niya alam lahat ng detalye, ang tingin ko lang kulang sa pagtutok sa detalye," she said.
"It’s not the lack of effort ng mga ahensiya na gumagawa, talagang nakikita ko naman, we have partner with some of them...nakikita ko ang effort. Pero ‘yung pag inter weave ng mga efforts ng iba-iba yun ang kulang. Parang sa execution kasi nagkaka problema. Hindi ko alam ang nangyayari sa taas pero ramdam na may kulang,” she added.
Robredo expressed frustration that despite the surge in Covid-19 cases in the country brought about by the Delta variant, Duterte seems to be disconnected due to the various issues the administration is facing particularly the COA reports which flags the spending deficiency of several government agencies amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the investigation being conducted by the lawmakers particularly on the alleged misuse of the pandemic-allocated budget.
She earlier said that Duterte’s attacks against the lawmakers as well as the former administration amid the controversy in the purchase of alleged overpriced medical supplies amid the pandemic is a “lame attempt” to divert the issues being faced by the government. (SunStar Philippines)