President Rodrigo Duterte has appealed for understanding from healthcare workers over the delayed release of their benefits amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a taped address aired on Wednesday, Duterte said the government also has to deal with other expenses related to the pandemic response.
“Give us time to adjust to the finances because ang fluctuation of events hindi natin malaman kagaya nito bigla na lang. Sino ba nag-akala na mayroong pandemiya? We have to spend in a short notice, we had to collate whatever was left or whatever was available for Bayanihan 1 and 2,” he said.
(Give us time to adjust to the finances because the fluctuation of events is unpredictable. Just like the pandemic, it happened so suddenly. Who knew there would be a pandemic?)
“Tapos kayo bigla magreklamo. Di ko naman sinasabi mali iyan. Tama iyan. Kaya lang konting pag-unawa lang kasi kung meron lang talaga bakit namin hindi ibigay. Anuhin naman namin yung pera hindi man amin?” he added.
(And then you were complaining. I’m not saying it’s wrong, it’s actually right. But I ask for your understanding because if there’s money, then why would we withhold its release? What would we do with the money that is not even ours?)
Duterte further said: “But the problem is there are other expenses of [the] government other than the health concerns. Iyon sana maintindihan ninyo kami [I hope you will understand us].”
Health workers earlier held protests to demand the release of all the benefits and compensation mandated by law or promised by the government.
In an update, the Department of Health (DOH) said that as of September 3, 2021, P14.3 billion worth of benefits for healthcare workers has been disbursed covering the period of September 15 to December 19, 2020 (Period 1) and December 20, 2020, to June 30, 2021 (Period 2).
For Period 1, P6.4 billion has been disbursed, representing active hazard duty pay for 384,159 healthcare workers and special risk allowance (SRA) for 306,314 healthcare workers.
A total of 103,096 healthcare workers received meals, accommodation, and transportation (MAT) allowances worth P990.9 million.
For Period 2, P6.9 billion worth of SRA was disbursed for 379,117 healthcare workers. A total of 32,281 healthcare workers were covered with life insurance worth P16 million.
The DOH also said that P570 million worth of checks has also been released to 24,034 healthcare workers as COVID-19 sickness and death compensation.
Aside from previously released P14.3 billion worth of active hazard duty pay, SRA, MAT allowances, and insurance of health workers, the DOH said it was “working double time” to distribute another round of benefits worth P888.12 million, which was transferred by the Department of Budget and Management on September 6.
The DOH is also lobbying for the inclusion of benefits for healthcare workers in the 2022 national budget. –Virgil Lopez/KBK, GMA News