Senator appeals for expedited release of P9B for COVID duty pay of healthcare workers

There is P51 billion in the 2022 national budget for COVID-19 duty pay of public and private healthcare workers (HCWs) and to compensate them if they get sick or die from the virus, Senator Joel Villanueva revealed today.

Of this, P9 billion can be immediately released as it is booked as regular appropriations, Villanueva said. “Itong pondong ito ang sure ball na.”

The rest, or P42 billion, is lodged under the Unprogrammed Appropriations, which under budget laws can only be released if financed by excess revenues or new loans.

He said this can be funded based on the government’s planned borrowing spree this year.

But to unlock the P9 billion in regular appropriations “so it can be availed of by medical frontliners battling the Omicron surge,” the DBM and DOH must first issue the guidelines for their use, Villanueva said

“Kaya po sa ating mga kaibigan sa DOH and DBM, nakikiusap po tayo na apurahin ang implementing guidelines nito para sa ating mga medical frontliners,” Villanueva said.

Of the P9 billion, P7.92 billion “shall be used for the payment of COVID-19 benefits for all public and private health care workers and non-health care workers, regardless of employment status,”  states the budget Special Provision identifying its use.

Covered are workers in all health facilities involved in COVID-19 response including military hospitals, GOCC medical facilities, state university hospitals and private licensed health facilities.

The rest, or P1.08 billion, is earmarked as compensation for COVID-19 workers in health facilities who had contracted the virus while on duty.

Under the GAA 2022, infected workers, on top of benefits like free medical care, shall receive P15,000 if the case is mild or moderate; P100,000 for severe or critical case, and  P1 million in case of death.

Villanueva said the P9 billion should be treated as “first and smaller tranche” in COVID-19 allowances for healthcare workers as he expressed optimism that the unprogrammed P42 billion can be released based on the government’s borrowing plan.

“Kayang pondohan po ito, kasi P2.47 trillion ang balak utangin ng gobyerno ngayong 2022,” the senator pointed out.

“This amounts to P6.76 billion of debt incurred daily. Yung P42 billion, wala pa pong isang linggong utang,” he said.