Senator Christopher “Bong” Go welcomed the recent approval of additional budget to cover the payment of the COVID-19 Special Risk Allowance to healthcare workers (HCWs) who are yet to receive the benefit.
President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the release of PhP1.185 billion charged against the 2021 Contingent Fund to cover the SRA of eligible private HCWs and non-Department of Health plantilla personnel who are directly catering to or in contact with COVID-19 patients.
“Nararapat lamang na mabigyan sila ng dagdag na kompensasyon bilang pagkilala sa kanilang sakripisyo. Kailanman ay hindi sila pababayaan ng gobyerno,” the senator said.
“Ang ating mga medical frontliners ay ang mga sundalo sa gyerang ito. Sila ang tinuturing nating bayani sa laban kontra COVID-19. Bilang Chair ng Senate Committee on Health, ipaglalaban ko ang karapatan at kapakanan nila palagi,” he added.
The Department of Budget and Management has previously released P8.189 billion for SRA benefits which covered 497,043 HCWs.
Earlier, Go urged concerned authorities to exercise flexibility in implementing the terms of the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act, which serves as the legal basis for the SRA.
“Bigyan natin ng sapat na suporta ang medical frontliners. Bawat araw ay nasa panganib ang kanilang buhay. Siguraduhin nating mabibigyan ang lahat ng qualified healthcare workers ng Special Risk Allowance at iba pang insentibo o benepisyo na naaayon sa batas,” appealed Go.
“Kaya ako umaapela na maging flexible tayo sa pag-iimplementa ng nakasaad sa batas at kung kakayanin ng pondo ay bigyan na ang lahat ng qualified ng fixed na amount ng SRA kaysa bilangin pa natin ang kanilang pag-duty bawat araw,” he added.
To guarantee that their contributions are adequately recognized, Go also expressed his support for extending the SRA to all HCWs working in hospitals. Given the significant number of COVID-19 cases admitted in the country’s healthcare institutions, he pointed out that practically all HCWs are entitled to the benefit.
“Lahat naman ng health workers na naka-duty ay maituturing na exposed sa banta ng COVID-19. Hindi nakikita ang kalaban na ito kung kaya’t mahirap paghiwalayin pa kung sino ang exposed at sino ang hindi,” noted Go.
“Pagdating mo sa ospital, ‘di mo naman masasabi. Once nasa loob ka na, prone at maituturing na exposed ka na rin. Hindi mo masabi na walang virus sa dinaanan mong floor dahil dito lang ang virus kasi hindi nga natin nakikita ang kalaban,” he explained in an earlier interview.
Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Go authored and co-sponsored Senate Bill No. 2421 which will provide health workers with a fixed monthly COVID-19 Risk Allowance for the duration of the current State of Emergency in lieu of the special risk allowance and other financial compensation granted under the Bayanihan 2. Under the measure, those eligible for the benefits will include all healthcare workers and other necessary personnel assigned in health facilities.
Go also successfully pushed for the allocation of PhP51 billion in the 2022 budget for the compensation of COVID-19 HCWs. He went on to stress that the government should do everything possible to help HCWs, considering their critical role in fighting the pandemic and preserving lives.
“As much as possible, kung kakayanin naman ng pondo, ibigay na natin lahat ng suportang pwede nating ibigay sa medical frontliners dahil sila naman ang maituturing na mga bayani sa laban na ito,” Go stressed.
In 2019, Go was also instrumental in the enactment of the Salary Standardization Law 5, as its author and co-sponsor. The law gives civilian government employees, including nurses, their fifth round of salary increases broken down in tranches.
In the same year, he also ensured that sufficient funding was allotted for the implementation of a Supreme Court decision upholding Section 32 of the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, some 18 years after the law was enacted. The law increases the minimum salary grade of the Nurse I position to SG-15. The ruling was implemented the following year.