DSWD Secretary urges higher budget for DOH to serve poor

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 July) – Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said there should be a bigger budget allocation for the Department of Health (DOH) to provide easier access and better health services to Filipino indigents.

Taguiwalo told a press conference at the Haran Evacuation Center on Friday that it is “inhumane” to have the Filipino people wait in long queues to apply for medical assistance for expensive medicines and treatments.

She said the waiting time for indigent Filipinos seeking medical support will be lessened if the public hospitals will have bigger budget to attend to all their medical needs, so that “konti konti mabura na natin ang atin kasabihan na kung mahirap ka, bawal magkasakit” (slowly, we can get rid of the saying ‘if you are poor, you cannot afford to be sick).

“DOH budget should be increased not only for Philhealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corporation) but also for public hospitals to hire additional medical and social workers. But more importantly, make sure that the basic services for more indigent patients such as dialysis, chemotherapy, and the medicines they need are provided for free and provided through a simple process of application because they are already sick and no longer have the money,” she said.

She said poor families have suffered enough from lining up at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and they should not be lining up again to get additional assistance from other agencies like the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

“Bakit hindi na lang tiyakin ng gobyerno na may pera ang public hospitals natin (Why can’t the government ensure that our public hospitals have enough budget?),” she said. “Kung kaya lang na ipamigay ang pera eh pero (If we can only give out the money directly but) we don’t have that money and we are guided by rules,” she said.

She said President Rodrigo Duterte promised to utilize the revenues of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) for medical support, but she has no idea when this will take effect.

From poor to ‘near poor’

Based on the results of the 2015 Listahanan, Taguiwalo said there are about 1.5 million beneficiaries out of the 4.4 million who are out poverty and can be set free from DSWDs anti-poverty program Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

But Taguiwalo contested this by saying these 1.5 million Filipinos are “near poor” and are highly vulnerable to becoming “poor” again if set free.

“I think the 1.5 million are not yet self-reliant, meaning near poor. We continue to provide them with education and health support. We still have budget for them in 2016 and we will propose budget for them for 2017,” she said.

In Davao Region, the DSWD 11 listed some 176,632 household beneficiaries enrolled under 4Ps as of first semester of 2016 . Of the total, at least 29,556 Lumads are beneficiaries of the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) while 147,076 households are beneficiaries of regular Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program.

Davao del Sur, which includes Davao City, has the highest number of MCCT household beneficiaries with 13,000, followed by Davao del Norte with 9,781, Compostela Valley with 6,288, while Malita in Davao Occidental  and Caraga in Davao Oriental have 234 and 253, respectively.

For the regular 4Ps, the DSWD 11 has a total of 147,076. Of the total, Davao Occidental has the most number of beneficiaries with 52,034, followed by Davao Oriental with 38,849, Compostela Valley with 26,523, Davao del Sur (including Davao City) with 17,899, and Davao del Norte with 11,771.

No more expansion

Taguiwalo said there was a proposal to enroll 600,000 more beneficiaries under the 4Ps but the secretary said she will not expand the program. She said the programs of other government agencies would be able to address the needs of 600,000 households.

“Sabi natin, hindi pa kakayanin yan (We say, we cannot accommodate all),” she said.

Taguiwalo, one of the Leftist secretaries in the Duterte administration, added that most of the social workers are “overworked” and are under contract, which contradicts her stance against contractualization.

“It is a form of contractualizatioon that we don’t want because we want our workers to experience job security. We are for social welfare, but the welfare of our own people, we cannot address,” she said.

She said that there was no dramatic improvement in the condition of 4Ps beneficiaries.

She claimed that poverty incidence in most of the regions of Mindanao, except for Davao Region, even worsened.

“I think critics have pointed out that you cannot address poverty by simply providing financial assistance no matter how well-meaning, no matter the goal of breaking the intergenerational poverty cycle, by providing education to the next generation… What the data is trying to say is that we should help out each other. DSWD cannot do it by itself,” she said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/ MindaNews)