Health is wealth?

By Herbert Vego

EXCUSE me for ending “health is wealth” with a quotation mark. The national government does not think so. Based on reports coming from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the Department of Health (DOH) would be entitled to a 2024 budget of ₱199.45 billion, reflecting a decrease by P10 billion from the proposed ₱209.62 billion under the General Appropriations Act.

According to DBM Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, the reduction in the proposed 2024 budget of the DOH was mostly due to {“some amendments” made by lawmakers. ₱199.45 billion is a mere drop in the bucket when viewed against the entire ₱5.768 trillion national budget.

OMG, one inevitably recalls the personal experience of seeing a serious patient who could not be lifted from the ambulance to the Western Visayas Medical Center for lack of stretcher.

Why the budget cut for the DOH?  Are we to suspect that it would be re-aligned to support the Marcos administration’s ₱10.14 billion confidential and intelligence funds for next year?

A document uploaded on the DBM website shows ₱5.27 billion allotted for intelligence expenses and ₱4.86 billion for confidential expenses. That means an increase of ₱120-million over this year’s similarly-classified funds.

The bulk or ₱4.5 billion of the proposed funds would to be allocated for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s office.

The Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education, both under Vice President Sara Duterte, have allocations reaching ₱500 million and ₱150 million, respectively.

These funds do not undergo audit, hence may be secretly spent for their personal whims and caprices.

Sara’s predecessor, VP Leni Robredo, had never availed herself of a centavo in intelligence/confidential funds.

But if we remember right, the pun on “Sara without H” stemmed from her criticism of “honesty” as a political policy. She had been criticized in both the streamline and  social media for saying honesty is not an election issue because “everybody lies”.



NO doubt, the province of Antique has turned into a breeding ground for bright students.  Otherwise, this prestigious institution would not dare make its presence there. I refer to the rise of an extension campus of University of the Philippines-Visayas (UPV)in Pandan town.

In a telephone conversation with former Antique Governor Sally Zaldivar Perez, I learned that Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda had been instrumental in defraying ₱50 million in public funds for its construction while she was still congresswoman of Antique in 2019-22.

UP President Angelo Jimenez and UP Visayas Chancellor Clement Camposano led the ribbon-cutting ceremony during the school’s inauguration last August 25.

Although she was not personally present, Legarda addressed the audience through a video message, where she vowed to work harder to ensure that this extension UP-Visayas campus in  Antique would set the highest standards of tertiary education that UP is known for.

That the occasion was spared from politics was obvious in the presence of politicians of opposing persuasions, including Rep. Legarda and Governor Rhodora Cadiao.

Wasak na nga ba ang unity nila?

The initial courses offered by the extension campus include bachelor’s degrees in fisheries, economics, and finance.

The young Antiqueño high school graduates would henceforth be spared the expensive trips to the UP campuses in Iloilo City and Miag-ao, Iloilo to pursue college education.

The new three-story structure sits on 900 square meters of real estate donated by the Bautista, Ordinario and Batara families  at barangay Nauring, Pandan.



MY good friend Casiano Mayor, a retired newspaper editor, wrote to say that the plebiscite-approved joint venture agreement between Ceneco and Primelectric would result in “cheaper power rates and efficient supply.”

Cas owns a carinderia, Marilyn’s Kitchen, on corner Gatuslao Ext. and 13th streets.  

Cas shares the belief of Mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez Ceneco members-consumers can look forward to better services “as promised” because of the joint venture agreement.

After all, Primelectric is owned by billionaire businessman Enrique Razon, who also owns MORE Power in Iloilo City.

Ceneco, which is losing an average of ₱20 million monthly, truly deserves a savior. It serves 210,000 customers in the cities of Bacolod, Bago, Talisay, and Silay, and the towns of Murcia and Don Salvador Benedicto.

It may be cited that MORE Power – with Roel Z. Castro as President/CEO – has jumpstarted its takeover of Iloilo’s former distribution utility from 62,000 to 93,000 customers within three years. Castro holds the same position for Primelectric.

MORE Power’s household rates have been gradually decreasing for eight straight months, now at P10.98 per kilowatt-hour.

Ceneco’s joint venture with Primelectric (MORE Power’s affiliate) will result in a new name, Negros Electric and Power Corp. (NEPC).