THE Commission on Appointment (CA) confirmed on Tuesday, December 5, 2023, the designation of Health Secretary Ted Herbosa and Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr.
Senator Bong Go, chairperson of the CA Committee on Health who recommended the approval of Herbosa’s interim appointment, vouched for his capability to lead the agency considering his educational background and experience in public health and as an academian.
“Almost 127 years after the martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal, here we are faced by a candidate who is not just prominent because of his ancestry but definitely well qualified with his credentials and experience to be the right person as a secretary of Health,” Go said in his sponsorship speech.
“We have before us a surgeon, crisis management expert, professor, and experienced public officer,” he added.
Among the questions thrown to Herbosa during the deliberation for the confirmation of his appointment were the status of the investigation on the alleged anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth), low utilization and “wastage” of funds, and deficiency in procurement process.
Herbosa committed to strengthen efforts in going after malicious fraud and fraudulent claims and to penalize doctors and hospitals involved in such schemes.
He said he had already instructed his officials to formulate a catch-up plan and find several ways to improve the department's utilization of funds.
Herbosa revealed that the unpaid Covid-19 health emergency allowance (HEA) to some two million health workers still stands at P62.9 billion and they are looking into completing the disbursement of the funds by 2026 or earlier.
Herbosa was appointed as the DOH secretary in June.
Meanwhile, during the deliberation for the confirmation of Laurel’s appointment, among those that were tackled was the issues pertaining to smuggling which is among the marching orders to him by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Marcos earlier blamed smuggling activities for the increase of prices of basic commodities in the country such as rice, sugar and onion.
Laurel vowed to beef up efforts to strengthen campaign against smuggling especially by filing criminal charges against those who are involved in the illegal scheme.
He also allayed fears that he will use his position for the advantage of his company, noting that he already relinquished his post after being appointed as the secretary of Agriculture in November.
Bataan Representative Albert Garcia who sponsored the confirmation of Laurel’s appointment vouched for the credibility of Laurel who has a “wealth of experience” in the private sector.
“Indeed, Secretary Laurel’s leadership in this diverse agriculture and fishing enterprise has equipped him with full competency and effectiveness that will help him bring about positive transformations as well as growth and sustainability of the agriculture and fishery sector,” he said.
“In responding to the call of the president of the Philippines to leave a private life within an established company to take a demanding role as secretary of Agriculture, Secretary Laurel has exhibited a selfless dedication that extends beyond personal comfort. His acceptance of this role is not nearly an obligation; it is a demonstration of his genuine support and love to our people and his deep-seated concern for the well-being of our farmers and fisherfolks,” he added.
Garcia said the act of sacrifice conveys a great deal about Laurel’s character and underscores his preparedness to navigate the challenges inherent in pub service making the right person to spearhead the Department of Agriculture with grace and foresight.
Laurel is the President of Frabelle Fishing Corporation and Markham Resources Corporation as well as the chairman of the Westpac Meat Processing Corporation and Bukidnon Hydro Energy Corporation before he was appointed to succeed Marcos as the DA secretary.