Inclusive post-pandemic recovery

I continue to advocate for the establishment of more Super Health Centers in our country to improve access to primary care facilities.

It has been a hectic week as we have recently ended what could only be called marathon plenary deliberations for the 2023 General Appropriations Bill.

For several days, the plenary debates lasted until the wee hours of the morning but there was never a decline in the vigor and meticulousness by which they were conducted as we were all aware of just how critical next year’s budget is in our country’s gradual and inclusive recovery from the pandemic.

As Chair of the Committee on Health and Demography, I am particularly thankful for the inclusion of an additional budget for the Department of Health, which includes the increased funding for the Cancer Assistance Fund and the hiring of immunization vaccinators to strengthen our immunization activities. Moreover, I commend the adoption of my proposed special provision under the PhilHealth budget that indicates the use of the P21 billion budget for the benefits package improvement under the Universal Health Care Act.

During the deliberations, I also took the opportunity to call on the DoH and the Department of Budget and Management to ensure that our healthcare workers and frontliners receive the benefits and compensation accorded to them under Republic Act 11712, which we earlier passed last 18th Congress.

I likewise reiterated the importance of the continuous upgrading of our health facilities. Related to this, I continue to advocate for the establishment of more Super Health Centers in our country to improve access to primary care facilities. Equally important is the affordability of health services. Thus, I also continue to push for the establishment of more Malasakit Centers to ensure easier access of indigent patients to government medical assistance.

Meanwhile, I have manifested last week my full support for the budget of several agencies, including the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of National Defense, and Department of Transportation, considering their importance in making sure that our people receive the necessary government services and protection they deserve as functioning citizens of our country, especially in our path towards recovery.

In particular, DSWD has helped our people receive sufficient and adequate social services for their daily and basic needs through programs like Sustainable Livelihood Program, Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, Social Pension Program for Indigent Senior Citizens, and Balik Probinsya Program. It is only right that we continuously fund these programs and even augment them to help more of Filipinos in need.

DND, on the other hand, is indispensable in our nation’s defense and security. Our uniformed personnel lay down their lives every day to protect our country’s sovereignty. The least we could do to be of service to them is to formulate and push for legislation that will support the initiatives for the betterment of the military service.

Related to our peace initiatives, the government must also make sure that former rebels receive the benefits that have been committed to them under the E-CLIP or Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program. Under said program, former rebels should receive financial support in the form of immediate, livelihood and reintegration assistance, and firearms remuneration. If we are to encourage more rebels to rejoin our society, there must be consistency in the delivery of their benefits, which may be achieved by streamlining them.

Finally, as our economy gradually reopens and recovers, the significant role of DoTr becomes even more prominent in ensuring the uninterrupted flow of transportation throughout the country. Thus, I have urged the agency to continue demonstrating “malasakit” for commuters and travelers by assisting them in the provision of safe and effective public transportation services.

I also appealed for the “Libreng Sakay” initiative to be fully funded to provide free bus rides for commuters along the EDSA Busway, and likewise stressed the importance of allocating funds for the Pantawid Pasada program to assist public transportation drivers who are particularly hard hit by the increase in oil prices.

Even as these plenary deliberations went on well past midnight, I nevertheless cannot neglect my commitment to keep on assisting our distressed Filipinos across the country, to the best of my ability. A senator’s job does not only entail legislation and representation, but also constituency services.

Thus, I personally inspected the newly constructed Super Health Center in Iba, Zambales on 15 November and SHC in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on 19 November; and witnessed the groundbreaking ceremony of the SHC in Balagtas, Bulacan last 16 November. During said visits, I likewise personally led a series of relief operations for 3,000 indigent residents in Iba and 2,000 in Puerto Princesa City.

Meanwhile, after visiting Bulacan, I directly proceeded to Navotas City to support 516 fire-hit households. The next day, I personally assisted 65 fire-hit households in Las Piñas City before heading to Borongan City, Eastern Samar to provide assistance to 400 former rebels. Then afterward we aided 1,667 indigents in Josefina, Zamboanga del Sur and 1,263 typhoon “Paeng” victims in Zamboanga City the following day.

Simultaneously, my office continued mounting a series of relief operations last week. Beneficiaries included 1,116 struggling residents in Lucena City, Quezon; 985 in Sta. Cruz, 360 in San Pedro City, and 160 in Pakil, Laguna; 1,000 in San Rafael, Bulacan; 97 in Baguio City; 3,200 in San Isidro, Davao Oriental; 254 in Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija; 294 in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental; 250 in Barangay 62, Manila City.

Fire victims also received aid, including 18 families in Pasig City; 12 families in Parañaque City; and two in Cebu City, three in Alcantara and four in Carcar City, Cebu. In addition, 2,382 typhoon victims in Dueñas, Dumangas, Passi City, San Enrique, Iloilo and 1,827 more in Roxas City, Capiz were assisted.

Slowly but surely, we are on our way to recovery. As we plod on, we must make every peso and every second count. So as much as I can, I will continue filling my days by helping our people in distress and providing them support, while fulfilling the equally taxing job of lawmaking. I hope that we can also all continue to do our best in our respective areas, secure in the thought that every achievement will go a long way in our collective goal to have a more comfortable life for all.

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