Sen. Bong Go, chair of the Senate committee on health, has reiterated his appeal to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Department of Health (DOH) to fast-track the release of the health emergency allowances (HEA) still due to health care workers who served during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The senator's request came amid growing concerns over delayed payments and unresolved financial commitments to frontline workers.

'For the nth time, I am appealing to the DOH, DBM to fast-track the release of the unpaid Health Emergency Allowances due our nurses and other health care workers who served during the COVID-19 pandemic,' Go said in a mix of Filipino and English in a radio interview on Monday.

He emphasized the critical role these individuals played during the height of the crisis, and even until now, in securing the health and well-being of every Filipino.

Go highlighted the sacrifices of these health workers, who risked their lives daily to care for the nation. He pointed out the disparity between the allowances they are set 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.

'Their allowances are but a small token compared to the immense sacrifice that they did,' he remarked, drawing attention to the need for the government to fulfill its duty to these health care heroes.

The senator noted the passage of Republic Act 11712, which provides for continuing benefits and allowances to health care workers during public health emergencies. Despite the lifting of the state of public health emergency in July, many health care workers have yet to receive their HEA.

Go acknowledged this ongoing issue and pledged to continue reminding the DBM and the DOH about the government's obligation to the health care 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 said.

In terms of budget allocations, Go said that 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 amount still falls short of the total requirement.

The DOH has reported that over P62 billion worth of HEA remains unpaid, with arrears accumulating from 2021 to 2023.

The DOH recently requested for 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 said.

During the Nov. 8 Senate plenary session where the budget of the DBM was deliberated, Go questioned the delay in the disbursement of the HEA and highlighted its importance in providing financial relief to health care 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 said.


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