Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon urged the Senate Committee on Finance Friday to look for means to fund the increase in the salaries of government nurses following the Supreme Court ruling that upheld that the minimum base pay of entry-level nurses should not be lower than salary grade 15.
“We should look for ways to provide the necessary funding to implement the Philippine Nursing Act which we passed when I was Senate President in 2002,” Drilon said.
Drilon explained that under the present salary scheme, the minimum base pay of nurses in public hospitals should be P30,531, the equivalent of SG 15 as provided for in the law.
“There are excess fats in the P4.1-trillion 2020 spending outlay which we can use to augment the minimum base pay of thousands of government nurses in accordance with the Republic Act 9173 and pursuant to the ruling of the Supreme Court,” Drilon stressed.
The proposed 2020 national budget is being heard in the Senate and will be brought to the floor for deliberation when Congress resumes session in November.
Drilon said that there are around 7,193 authorized nurse 1 positions in government, which will entail additional P1 billion to implement RA 9173 starting 2020.
“If the government is willing to buy a P2-billion jet and if it can boldly ask Congress for a record-breaking P8.2-billion intelligence and confidential fund, I do not see any reason why we cannot fund the adjustment in the salary of our nurses,” Drilon said.
Drilon identified three possible funding sources: The Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund, the proposed budget for the 2020 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections and some unutilized revenues from the Sin Tax Law.
He stressed: “We owe it to our nurses who provide patients 24/7 health care in overcrowded government hospitals, which sometimes comes at the expense of their own health and wellbeing.”
Republic Act 9173, or the Philippine Nursing Act, Drilon explained, clearly provides that “the minimum base pay of nurses working in the public health institutions shall not be lower than salary grade 15.”
However in 2009, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 811, which reduced the base pay of nurses from salary grade 15 to salary grade 11.
Joint Resolution No. 4 adopted by Congress authorized the President to modify the compensation and position classification system of civilian personnel and the base pay schedule of military and uniformed personnel in the government.
This week, the high court upheld the validity of RA 9173, but pointed out that it is up to Congress to provide for funding.
However, for the past 17 years since the enactment of the law, they have only been receiving the equivalent of salary grade 10, which amounts to P19,233 today, or P10,000 lower than what they are supposed to receive under RA 9173.
Drilon said the implementation of RA 9173 will help enhance the commitment to service and professionalism of nurses, expressing concerns that “more and more nurses each year are leaving the country in search for greener pastures abroad and away from their families.”
The minority leader pointed out that the P63-billion MPBF for 2020 may be used to cover the salary adjustments for entry-level nurses.
He also sees the possibility of using the around P6 billion budget of the Commission on Elections for the 2020 Barangay and SK elections, which is set to be postponed to 2022.
Drilon also said the budget requirement could be sourced from the unutilized revenues from the excise tax collection. It was Drilon who authored the Sin Tax Law in 2012.
The government expected to raise more than P100 billion this year from the excise tax collections on tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, which is being used to fund principally the Universal Health Act and government’s health-related programs.
“This is a health concern and the proceeds from the Sin Tax Law can be used to fund the adjusment in the base pay of government nurses,” he said.