Strengthening the healthcare system

The DoH earlier cautioned that the low vaccination rates may result in outbreaks and future health crises.

I have often said this but it bears repeating that we must continue to strengthen our healthcare system because an investment in the health of our people is an investment in our country’s future.

This is why I am thankful to my colleagues for the increments in our health budget in the proposed 2023 General Appropriations Act. Last 8 November, we began the plenary deliberations in the Senate on the said measure and I am honored to have co-sponsored the same as it provides for much-needed increases in our priority sectors, including public health and sports.

As chair of the Senate Committee on Health, I particularly commend the inclusion of an additional budget for the expansion and strengthening of epidemiology and surveillance systems of the Department of Health. I also thank my fellow lawmakers for supporting yet again the additional budget for the Cancer Assistance Fund.

Meanwhile, considering the markedly low immunization rates against vaccine-preventable diseases in the country, I am thankful for the continued efforts to strengthen our inoculation drives. The DoH earlier cautioned that the low vaccination rates, not only with Covid-19 but also with other diseases, may result in outbreaks and future health crises. Like I always said, “Kung bakunado, mas protektado!”

Moreover, I laud the additional budgets for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program and the Medical Assistance for Indigent Patients program. Through these, we would also be able to continue establishing additional Super Health Centers throughout the country and sustain the operations of the Malasakit Centers program to improve the accessibility of public health services to more Filipinos.

In addition, I am thankful for the adoption of the proposed special provision under the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation budget that shall impress upon PhilHealth the use of the budget line item to improve the benefits package under the Universal Health Care Act.

I have personally witnessed the struggles of our indigent Filipinos to seek medical attention. Thus, I am hopeful that these developments would enable us to progressively realize universal health care in the country and ensure that all Filipinos are guaranteed equitable access to health services.

Meanwhile, as Chair of the Committee on Sports, I continue to push for an additional budget for the operations of the National Academy of Sports to support our student-athletes. I authored and co-sponsored Republic Act 11470, establishing the NAS, so we can have a government-run learning facility that offers a secondary education program with an integrated special curriculum on sports.

Moreover, as the sponsor of the budget of the Philippine Sports Commission and the Games and Amusements Board, I continue to fight for increased funding for our sports programs. In particular, the proposed 2023 budget of the PSC was increased by one billion pesos to include preparations, training, and participation of the country’s athletes in the upcoming Paris Olympics, Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games, ASEAN Para-games, and other international competitions. Also included is additional support for the hosting of the 2023 FIBA World Cup, sports infrastructure development, and financial assistance to athletes.

We continue to support grassroots sports development, including the Philippine National Games, which I plan to institutionalize once enacted into law through a bill I filed. These initiatives will not only hone our youth into future world-class athletes but will also encourage them to stay away from illegal drugs.

I remind our officials that the budget must be used for all our needy, hopeless, and helpless Filipinos who have no one to rely on but the government.

In this regard, I have also continued providing aid to our vulnerable sectors nationwide. On 7 November, I visited my fellow Batangueños who were affected by typhoon “Paeng” in Calatagan. I witnessed the groundbreaking of the Super Health Center in the town and then personally led the relief operation for 500 of its typhoon victims, composed of farmers and fishermen. I then proceeded to Balayan to likewise personally assist 1,362 indigents.

On 11 November, I was joined by Senator Robinhood Padilla to personally spearhead a relief effort for 1,200 recovering typhoon “Agaton” victims in Roxas City, Capiz. Simultaneously, one of my outreach teams was at a local mall in the city to provide relief to poor students.

After the distributions, I visited the province of Iloilo to likewise aid 300 transport workers in Balasan as we likewise witnessed the inauguration of the transport terminal in the said town. We have given 600 small business owners in Estancia additional support and witnessed the inauguration of their public market which I supported in the past national budget. Finally, on the same day, I went to Anilao to personally check on the construction of the town’s Super Health Center and to lead another relief operation for 2,120 more typhoon “Agaton” victims.

A series of relief operations nationwide were also mounted by our team last week. In Iloilo, we assisted 5,495 typhoon “Agaton” victims in Anilao, 293 in Pototan, 177 in Lambunao, 17 in Bingawan, and 15 more in Calinog.

In Cagayan, beneficiaries included 650 typhoon “Paeng” victims in Sanchez Mira; 450 in Gonzaga; 450 in Camalaniugan; and 300 more in Allacapan. Meanwhile, in Cavite, 500 typhoon victims in Bacoor City were supported.

We also distributed 1,400 food packs for typhoon “Paeng” victims in Malolos City, Pandi, Marilao, Paombong, Hagonoy and Calumpit in Bulacan; and 600 more in San Pedro City, Laguna. Meanwhile, 78 fire victims in Iligan City were assisted.

We also aided 1,641 struggling residents in Sison, 1,267 in Placer, and 1,662 in Tagana-an, Surigao del Norte; 472 in Hagonoy, 160 in Malolos City, 115 in Norzagaray, and 500 in Bustos, Bulacan; as well as 1,000 in Cavinti and 600 in San Pablo City, Laguna.

Likewise assisted were 225 indigents in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental; 300 in Malasiqui, Pangasinan; 246 in Binuangan, Misamis Oriental; 1,666 in Tukuran, Zamboanga City; 1,000 in Gen. Mariano Alvarez, Cavite; 600 in Nunungan, Lanao del Norte; 250 in Pasig City; 436 in Cagayan de Oro City; 390 in Sta. Cruz, Zambales; and 169 in Tarlac City.

I am hopeful that these efforts will prove sufficient and effective at providing our Filipino people with a more comfortable life and at spurring our country’s economy. It is important that we secure the health and well-being of our people for them to become economically productive.
I also hope that we will continue to sustain the many gains achieved by the previous Duterte administration and the current Marcos administration as we march toward full and inclusive recovery soon.


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