Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, during an ambush interview on August 22, after aiding poor residents and fire victims in Navotas City, expressed his commitment to push for an increased budget for health in 2024.
In the interview, Go emphasized the importance of the DOH budget, stating, “Of course, napaka-importante po ng budget para sa ating Department of Health. As your chairman po ng Committee on Health sa Senado, siguraduhin po natin na marestore po ang budget at madagdagan pa.”
Go cited that the proposed P10-billion reduction in the Department of Health’s 2024 budget has alarmed many, especially considering ongoing efforts towards pandemic recovery and the need for a more resilient healthcare system. “The more we should invest sa ating healthcare system.
Hindi natin akalain na tamaan tayo ng pandemya. Mas mabuti nang handa tayo sa anumang pandemyang darating sa buhay natin,” said Go.
Go also highlighted the government’s obligations, especially towards healthcare workers, and recalled the efforts made last year to increase the DOH budget from P296 billion to P316 billion.
He mentioned various initiatives, including additional budget for Cancer Assistance Fund for cancer treatment assistance, regulation of health facilities and services, budget for Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP), medical assistance for indigent patients, and health emergency allowance.
The senator’s foresight was evident when he recalled the near reduction of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine budget in 2019, a crucial office that conducts tests for COVID-19.
“Kutob ko lang po noon, muntik na nilang bawasan sa proposal ng Department of Health budget, binawasan ang RITM. Sino bang mag-aakala na ang RITM ang pinaka-importanteng opisina noong pandemya?,” he recalled.
Go’s intuition then as sponsor of the health budget led to the restoration and augmentation of the budget for RITM during the deliberations for the 2020 national budget just in time before the pandemic hit the country.
“Dagdagan natin ang budget sa health. Unahin natin ang kalusugan ng bawat Pilipino. Ang kalusugan ay katumbas ng buhay ng bawat Pilipino,” he stressed.
Other senators also expressed the need for adequate funding for the healthcare system, especially in treating non-communicable chronic diseases and implementing the Universal Healthcare Law.
Senator Sonny Angara, chairperson of the Senate Finance Committee, expressed confidence that the health department’s budget would be increased, highlighting that legislators historically augment medical assistance for indigents.
Senators Francis Tolentino, JV Ejercito, Bong Revilla, Aquilino Pimentel III, and Grace Poe also called for careful scrutiny of the DOH budget, emphasizing the need to address the sector’s needs better, with no wastage and leakages, especially in the purchase of vaccines and other medical supplies.
Go’s advocacy of bringing public health services closer to poor Filipinos align with President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.’s priority of bringing specialized medical services closer to other parts of the country. Go has successfully sponsored and is one of the authors of the Regional Specialty Centers bill in the Senate, taking a step towards a healthier and more resilient Philippines.