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Saturday, July 13, 2024

DBM aims to settle allowance claims of public healthcare workers by yearend

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The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) eyes the settlement of all outstanding health emergency allowances (HEA) of public healthcare workers by the end of 2025.

“The healthcare workers are our priority. The HEA is in the SONA (State of the Nation Address) of our President. Every time we meet, he reminds me of that. My promise is, by 2025, we will be able to pay that,” Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said.

To date, the DBM has disbursed a total of P91.283 billion to the Department of Health (DOH) for the Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances (PHEBA), covering all benefits for healthcare workers from 2021 to 2023.

Of this amount, P73.261 billion has been allocated specifically for HEA.

PHEBA includes special risk allowance (SRA), compensation for COVID-19 sickness and death, as well as additional benefits like meals, accommodation, and transportation allowances for healthcare workers.

During the Senate hearing on Monday, Pangandaman outlined the DBM’s strategy to tackle the remaining P27.7 billion arrears for the HEA, which was presented by the DOH during a technical budget hearing held earlier this month.

The first step involves utilizing a P2.3 billion unprogrammed appropriations (UA) fund, contingent upon the collection of excess revenue.

“We will line it up [at UA]. We are just waiting for certification from the Bureau of Treasury on the excess revenue,” Pangandaman said, emphasizing the conditional nature of the UA.

Last year, an additional P7 billion, taken from the UA, was released for HEA.

The DBM will likewise look into the internal budget of the DOH and identify possible realignment for the program.

Pangandaman also vowed that the necessary resources to address the deficiencies in HEA would be prioritized in the drafting of the 2025 National Budget.

Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa, on the other hand, thanked the Senate Committee on Health as well as the DBM for aiding in the resolution of all HEA concerns.

“We’ve been able to receive the budget from the DBM from the 2022 and 2023 GAA (General Appropriations Act), and we’ve been able to disburse almost 99 percent,” mentioned Herbosa.

For fiscal year 2024, the DBM has comprehensively released a total of P19.996 billion to the DOH. However, Herbosa admits that there have been challenges in the disbursement of the fund.

The Budget Secretary, meanwhile, urged healthcare worker representatives to collaborate closely with the DOH to ensure the smooth implementation and timely disbursement of the HEA.

“The implementation is in the DOH. Let’s work together with the DOH for the correct list (HEA mapping). Through that, everyone who requested and was granted can be seen. Let’s make sure it goes to the right beneficiaries,” Pangandaman said.

Senator Christopher Lawrence Go praised the developments arising from the meeting.

“I am happy and grateful that when the DBM and DOH come together in their obligation on the health emergency allowance, it will be possible to finish it,” said Go, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography.

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