MANILA, Philippines — Senator Bong Go, chair of the Senate committee on health, has reiterated his call for the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Department of Health (DOH) to expedite the release of health emergency allowances (HEA) owed to healthcare workers who served during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The senator’s plea addresses mounting concerns about delayed payments and unresolved financial commitments to frontline workers.
“In yet another appeal, I am urging the DOH and DBM to hasten the release of the unpaid Health Emergency Allowances due to our nurses and other healthcare workers who served during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Go stated in a radio interview on Monday.
Highlighting the pivotal role played by these individuals during the peak of the crisis and continuing until now, Go emphasized their sacrifices in safeguarding the health and well-being of every Filipino. He drew attention to the disparity between the allowances they are supposed to receive and the magnitude of their sacrifices.
“They are the heroes during the pandemic. We would not be here if not for them. Most of them fell ill, some have died,” he said.
Referring to the allowances as a small token compared to the immense sacrifice of these healthcare workers, Go stressed the government’s duty to fulfill its obligation to these heroes.
Senator Go noted the passage of Republic Act 11712, which outlines continuing benefits and allowances for healthcare workers during public health emergencies. Despite the lifting of the state of public health emergency in July, many healthcare workers have yet to receive their HEA.
Acknowledging the ongoing issue, Go pledged to persistently remind the DBM and DOH of the government’s obligation to healthcare workers.
“That’s why, whenever we meet in person, I am constantly reminding the secretaries of DBM and DOH – I will remind them to give the HEA already,” he affirmed.
In terms of budget allocations, Go revealed that the DBM has released P23.6 billion from this year’s budget, with P19.6 billion coming from programmed appropriations and an additional P4 billion from unprogrammed funds. However, this falls short of the total requirement.
The DOH reported over P62 billion worth of unpaid HEA, accumulating arrears from 2021 to 2023. Recently, the DOH requested an additional P25.9 billion from the DBM to cover outstanding HEA payments.
“We still have health workers who have not been paid their HEA… This should be an obligation of the government that should be paid by the DOH and DBM,” Go emphasized.
During the Nov. 8 Senate plenary session where the budget of the DBM was deliberated, Go questioned the delay in HEA disbursement, highlighting its importance in providing financial relief to healthcare workers. While there are significant concerns about the delays, Go acknowledged the initial steps taken by the authorities.
“If needed because of the complaints, I am willing to call for a hearing… For the meantime, they have said that P23.6 billion has been initially released,” he stated.