Bong Go fights for proper implementation of UHC Law; lauds release of funds to cover one-year PhilHealth premium of 800,000 senior citizens

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go assured Filipinos that he will fight for the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law amid concerns surrounding the landmark law which automatically enrolls all Filipinos in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) National Health Insurance Program.

“Gaya po ng parating sinasabi ko sa inyo na ipaglalaban ko na ma-implementa ang Universal Health Care Law at maisalba ang operasyon ng PhilHealth. Napaka-importante ng kalusugan. Prayoridad natin ‘yan ngayon lalo na sa pandemic na ito,” Go, who is Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, said in an interview on Saturday, June 27.

“Sa mga senior citizens naman, nasa budget naman po ‘yung para po sa mahigit six million senior citizens natin. Meron po kaming pina-follow up na ma-release kaagad, ‘yung dagdag pondo na PhP4 billion para sa 800,000 na senior citizens natin, para covered po sila sa kanilang PhilHealth,” said Go.

Go referred to the additional PhP4 billion worth of funds to PhilHealth to cover the one-year health insurance premium contribution of 800,000 senior citizens. The Congress-introduced increase is chargeable against the PhilHealth’s appropriation under the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Budgetary Support to Government Corporations, Republic Act (RA) No. 11465 or the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for FY 2020.

“Malaking ginhawa po ito sa kanila lalo na sa kasalukuyang pandemic na nagbabanta sa kanilang kalusugan,” Go added.

As one of the high risk groups who need adequate safeguards against COVID-19, Go emphasized that the government should continue promoting the welfare of senior citizens who have dedicated their lives contributing to nation-building.

“Malaki po ang kontribusyon ng ating senior citizens sa ating lipunan. Panahon naman po para ibalik natin ito sa kanila sa pamamagitan ng pagbibigay ng serbisyong may malasakit at maaasahan,” Go said.

Pursuant to RA No. 10645, all senior citizens are covered by the National Health Insurance Program of PhilHealth. Funds necessary to ensure the enrollment of all senior citizens not currently covered by any existing category will be sourced from the National Health Insurance Fund of PhilHealth from the proceeds of RA 10351 or the Sin Tax Reform Act.

Under RA No. 11465 or the FY 2020 GAA, the PhilHealth has an authorized appropriation of PhP71.353 billion to implement the National Health Insurance Program, of which PhP31.177 billion is allocated for the senior citizens, pursuant to RA No. 10645.

In said interview, Go also mentioned that he previously appealed to the Department of Health to ensure the availability of medicines and other supplements needed by the elderly population amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the provision of a 20% discount for vitamins and mineral supplements prescribed by doctors.

“Patuloy natin na ipinaglalaban ang kapakanan at kabutihan ng ating senior citizens. May 20% discount ang vitamins and minerals supplements na kailangan nilang bilhin,” he said

As a result of Go’s earlier appeal, the DOH amended its policy through Administrative Order (AO) 2012-0007-A. Under the latest administrative order, vitamins and mineral supplements which are prescribed by a physician for prevention and treatment of diseases, illness or injury will be entitled to 20% discount for senior citizens.

“Hindi lang po yun, marami rin po tayong isinusulong noong mga nakaraang buwan at ipaglalaban natin ang kapakanan ng senior citizens. Napirmahan na rin ni Pangulong Duterte ang isang Executive Order para mas maimplementa ng maayos ang Cheaper Medicines Act. Para sa mga bilihin po ng mga senior citizens, merong dagdag na listahan ng gamot na pwedeng bilhin (sa mas murang presyo),” Go said referring to EO No. 104 on the Maximum Drug Retail Price signed by President Rodrigo Duterte early this year which cuts the retail prices of some 87 high cost medicines by up to 58%.

During the meeting of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the UHC Law weeks ago, Go also emphasized the importance of ensuring that the PhilHealth has enough budget to cover the healthcare needs of Filipinos, especially vulnerable sectors.

“Napakaimportante po ng PhilHealth sa atin at iyong health care system natin. We cannot afford na mag-falter o mag-fail dito sa mga succeeding years pa po. Dahil nangako tayo. Inaprubahan po ito ng Kongreso, iyong UHC Law, at iyon—lalung-lalo na po sa mga mahihirap nating mga kababayan na wala pong pambayad talaga. Umaasa po na sasagutin po ng PhilHealth iyong mga kulang,” he added.

Go urged fellow lawmakers to review the law for possible enhancement that will guarantee universal health care for all Filipinos.

“Pag-aralan nating mabuti, taking into consideration the current situation of the country, the plight of our OFWs and the health care system of the country,” Go said, adding that “any amendment should not be at the expense of providing universal health care for all.”

Senator Go explained that due to the impact of the current pandemic on the implementation of the UHC Law, the current premium collection of the PhilHealth has dropped significantly.

“Sabi nga ng presidente nila (PhilHealth), si Gen. Morales, as of this date ay 10% pa lang ang kanilang nakokolekta kasi direct contributors are not able to pay their premium,” Go said.

On top of PhilHealth’s coverage, Go mentioned that Malasakit Centers all over the country remain functional to assist indigent patients. “Sa mga kababayan natin, kung sakaling hindi kayang ma-cover ng UHC at PhilHealth ang inyong mga pangangailangan, pwede po kayong dumulong sa Malasakit Centers natin.”

“Meron na po tayong 71 na Malasakit Center at bukas pa rin po ito para magbigay ng tulong medikal sa ating mga kababayan. Batas na po ito. Lapitan niyo lang ang Malasakit Center. Inyo po ‘yun. Sa tao po ‘yun. Basta Pilipino ka, tutulungan ka,” he added.

Go also shared that Malasakit Centers are set to be opened in the provinces of Aurora, Sorsogon and Romblon as well.

“Hindi po natin nabuksan ito dahil inabutan ng pandemic. ‘Yung launching magiging through Zoom na lang po. Ang importante, ma-cater ang mga Pilipino sa mga probinsya ito,” Go said.



Pulong, DOLE-Davao distributes cash aid to 800 tricycle drivers in Davao City

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DAVAO CITY – The Office of the First District Representative Paolo “Pulong” Z. Duterte in collaboration with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) distributed on Friday morning, June 26, cash assistance to another 800 tricycle drivers at the Bankerohan Gymnasium in Barangay 5-A in Davao City.

Each tricycle driver, all residents from the first district, received P3,900 cash assistance from the government’s assistance program to mitigate the impact of the national health emergency due to coronavirus, according to the office of the young congressman.

The workers were compensated for 10 days of working based on DOLE’s program “Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantage/Displaced Workers (TUPAD). Aside from the cash assistance, Rep. Duterte’s office also distributed food packs containing rice, canned good, and noodles to the drivers.

TUPAD is a community-based package of assistance that provides emergency employment for displaced workers, underemployed and seasonal workers, for a minimum period of 10 days, but not to exceed a maximum of 30 days, depending on the nature of work to be performed.

On June 20, Rep. Duterte’s office facilitated the release of the cash assistance to 314 tricycle drivers held at the People’s Park. There were also 680 workers, mostly solo parent, who received the cash assistance and food packs from the government.

Bill seeks to rename NAIA

After having recovered from its image as one of the worst airports in the world, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is now poised to change its name to finally get rid of the bad image and start fresh.

In Congress, there is a bill that seeks to change the name of the country’s primary airport from NAIA to PPP or the Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas.

House Bill No. 7031 is authored by Representatives Paolo Duterte (Davao City 1st District), Lord Allan Jay Velasco (Marinduque), and Eric Go Yap (ACT-CIS).

Republic Act 6639, enacted on December 10, 1987, renamed then Manila International Airport to Ninoy Aquino International Airport during the administration of then President Corazon C. Aquino.

Being the international gateway of the Philippines, the three congressmen said that “there is a need to identify the same as belonging to the Philippines” and not to one person alone.

The proposed name Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas is a name that clearly represents the whole nation and brings pride to the Filipinos with the use of the national language.

Rep. Velasco said that having a very Filipino name for our international gateway sparks nationalism in each and everyone of us.

He said that our Filipino language should be the very first thing our visitors see upon landing at the airport an indication that we Filipinos are proud of our heritage.

The proposed bill will be calendared for 1st Reading where it will be referred to the Committee on Transportation for deliberation.

Bong Go urges Executive branch to review health and safety protocols for travels to provinces; protect areas, especially those with low to zero COVID-19 cases

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go urged the Executive branch to review and strengthen health and safety protocols being implemented, especially for those traveling to provinces, in order to avoid the further spread of the COVID-19 disease.

“Kahit niluwagan na ang community quarantine measures sa iilang lugar, higpitan pa rin po natin ang mga patakaran na kaugnay ng pagbyahe patungo sa mga probinsya para maiwasan ang lalong pagkalat ng sakit,” he said.

“May mga lugar tulad sa Mindanao na mababa ang kaso ng COVID-19. Hirap na tayong mapigilan ang pagkalat dito sa Metro Manila, huwag na nating hayaan na kumalat pa doon sa mga probinsya ang sakit,” he added.

Go echoed the recommendation of various officials and stakeholders that all flights, buses, vessels, and fast craft ships traveling from one province to another should strictly comply with health and safety protocols and must be required to secure clearance from authorities prior to travel.

Go also reminded authorities that COVID-19 testing must be conducted to passengers prior to travel and the timespan between testing and actual departure must be limited to a shorter period as determined by health experts to ensure reliability of test results and avoid possible exposure of passengers to the virus after being tested negative already.

He also urged concerned agencies to lay down convenient and efficient air, sea or land travel options with a clear schedule provided to the public in order to avoid confusion and overcrowding in terminals.

“Tulungan natin ang ating mga kababayan na naghahanap ng paraan makauwi pero bigyan natin sila ng maayos na sistema para hindi sila nakaabang lang sa mga transportation terminals. Alagaan rin natin sila, bigyan ng pagkain, maayos na masisilungan, at huwag hayaang magkumpol-kumpol para rin maiwasan ang lalong pagkalat ng sakit,” Go appealed.

Go also echoed Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año’s comments that a systematic single dispatch system which was adopted by the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa program during its pilot rollout last May 20 must also be implemented when transporting individuals back to their provinces.

“Ang Balik Probinsya po ay isang magandang huwaran dahil itong Balik Probinsya organized po eh. Pag-alis pa lang dito sa Manila, alam na ng LGU na ilan ang darating, sasalubungin nila, diretso sa quarantine. Maayos ang lahat, wala pong nakakalusot,” the Interior Secretary said.

“Sa ating LSI, gusto natin ay ganon ang gagawin….Kailangan po talaga ay organized at coordinated at ito po ay pag-iibayuhin namin kasama ang ating National Task Force. Sisiguraduhin po natin na ihahatid ang ating mga kababayan nang ligtas,” Año added.

“Mainam ang ‘single dispatch’ system na inadopt ng BP2 implementers sa pagpapauwi ng mga tao sa probinsya dahil mas kontrolado at mas maiiwasan ang exposure ng mga babyahe sa posibleng mahawahan ng sakit,” Go also said.

With regards to the implementation of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa program, BP2 Executive Director and National Housing Authority General Manager Marcelino Escalada, Jr. earlier announced that the BP2 council decided to reschedule the subsequent rollouts of BP2 in order to give way to the implementation of Hatid Tulong initiatives.

Given this, Go is also urging executive agencies mandated to implement the BP2 program to use this time to conduct a thorough review taking into consideration the health and safety measures that should be implemented.

“Suspended pa po ang implementasyon nito. This will give more time for receiving LGUs to prepare their communities for the return of BP2 beneficiaries. We have enough time to polish, study and review the necessary guidelines and seek wisdom from other LGUs prior to implementing the BP2 program,” Go, being the proponent of the program, said.

Go also issued a statement on Monday, June 22, urging the Executive branch to conduct a thorough review of the implementation of Hatid Tulong initiatives aimed at helping locally stranded individuals, overseas Filipino workers and other affected Filipinos who wish to return to their provinces amid the ongoing global pandemic.

Go stressed that aside from proper health and safety protocols that should be in place in the implementation of these initiatives, proper coordination must also be conducted to make sure that receiving local government units are willing and ready to accept their constituents.

“Kung hindi po willing at kung hindi naman po handa ang mga LGUs na tanggapin ang kanilang mga kababayan, huwag na muna dapat payagang makabyahe ang mga ito. Siguraduhin muna na may kakayahan ang LGUs na mag-test, mag-quarantine, at maalagaan ang kanilang mga kababayang darating bago nila pauwiin,” he stressed.

He also asked the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to impose stricter measures to stop unauthorized travels and unsanctioned ‘Hatid’ initiatives reportedly conducted by various LGUs and groups that do not comply with health protocols.

“Sa sinumang pinapayagang maglakbay, siguraduhin na nasusunod ang lahat ng health protocols: testing, health certificate, face mask, social distancing, 14-day quarantine, isolation for positive cases, atbp.,” he explained.

Go said that since Hatid Tulong is a directive from the President, it is important to make sure that it is properly implemented considering the best interests of all Filipinos.

In an address to the nation on Monday night, President Rodrigo Duterte reminded LGUs to accept returning residents, saying “’Di pwede na ‘di makauwi ang mga kababayan natin. It is their right to go home, to live or die there. ‘Di mo ma-deny sa Pilipino ‘yan.” Previously, he reiterated the same policy, explaining “Hati tayo sa problema tutal hindi naman kami nagkulang. Whatever you need, we will provide. Kawawa naman. Tulungan ninyo ang mga Pilipino.”

“Nais ko ipaalala sa lahat na hindi natin pwedeng ipagkait ang karapatan ng mga Pilipino na makauwi sa sarili nilang bayan. Obligasyon po ng mga LGUs na tanggapin at alagaan ang kanilang mga kababayan. Gawin lang dapat ito sa paraan na ligtas at hindi makakadagdag sa ating hinaharap na krisis,” Go reechoed.

Go said he welcomes calls from various experts and stakeholders to review any program of the government, including the Balik Probinsya Program and Hatid Tulong initiative.

“After all, our collective goal is to make the whole government more responsive to the rapidly changing concerns brought by the global health crisis,” Go explained.

“Bilang chair ng Senate Committee on Health, lagi kong ipinapaalala sa ating mga ahensya na sundin ang tamang proseso at magkaroon ng maayos na koordinasyon lalo na sa lokal na pamahalaan upang maisaalang-alang palagi ang BUHAY at KALIGTASAN ng mga tao,” he added.


Senate tackles Bong Go’s expanded Special Education Fund bill to help LGUs enhance local public education system

A public hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Local Government tackled a bill which seeks to expand the application of the proceeds of the Special Education Fund (SEF) tax to other needs of the public education system.

Filed by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, Senate Bill No. 396, or “Expanding the purposes and application of the Special Education Fund”, provides for the expansion of the application of the additional one percent (1%) SEF tax to other items relating to education, such as the construction and repair of libraries, payment of salaries, allowances and other benefits of teaching and non-teaching personnel.

During his opening statement in the hearing held on Friday, June 19, Go reiterated the government’s “solemn task to ensure that our education system is made accessible to every Filipino so that they can reach their full potential and play a more productive role in nation-building.”

Go cited the fact that, unlike richer local government units, poorer ones depend heavily on the SEF to fund their public education needs. “LGUs may provide support to public schools and their students, chargeable to their SEF. However, not all LGUs are created equal. Hindi naman pantay-pantay ang IRA at kita ng lahat ng mga LGU. Kung maliit ang IRA, maliit din ang SEF.”

He also mentioned that “[s]ome of the richer LGUs do not rely on their SEF and can provide for public education services and support through their general fund.”

“Alam niyo, sa kakaikot ko po ng buong bansa, napapansin ko lang na hindi talaga pantay-pantay. May mga munisipyo, mga 4th class municipalities na kulang talaga ang kanilang pondo, ni notebook, ballpen o lapis ay hindi po nila kayang bumili,” said Go.

“Napaka-unfair po noon. Hirap na nga sila sa access, sa mga magagandang classroom o kumpletong kagamitan, mas lalo po silang…they were deprived po sa mga education materials, such as notebooks nga po, dahil di nila kayang bumili, iyon pong mga kanilang local government units,” he added.

While the SEF is accessible to poor LGUs, Go said that “the scope of the expenses for which the SEF may be spent is limited,” forcing these LGUs to “gamble on the use of the SEF for education-related matters”.

“Under the law, the SEF may be used only for the ‘operation and maintenance of public schools, construction and repair of school buildings, facilities and equipment, educational research, purchase of books and periodicals, and sports development’,” Go remarked.

“So, what happens is that some LGUs gamble on the use of the SEF for education-related matters which are not enumerated in the law,” explained Go, further saying that it is the poor LGUs that are hardest hit by this restriction.

For this purpose, Go filed SB 396 to expand the application of the proceeds of the SEF. “Sa tulong ng panukalang ito, mabibigyan na natin ng sapat na kakayahan ang mga LGU na mapunan ang pangangailangang pang-edukasyon ng kanilang mga nasasakupan, para di na nila kailangang umalis pa sa kanilang mga probinsya para lang makapag-aral.”

“Under this bill, it may now be used for, among others, payment of salaries and benefits of teaching and non-teaching personnel, competency trainings, and operation of alternative learning systems,” he added.

The Senator also said that “the flexibility afforded by this measure to LGUs will facilitate the country’s ongoing transition to the digital age, where there is a growing need to provide our students with modern tools to remain globally competitive.”

In light of the pandemic, Go also noted that the measure will “render the public education system more flexible to implement alternative modes of learning or blended learning.”

“It will likewise be very useful for LGUs in dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has severely strained local finances,” he said.

As for the long-term Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program of the government, Go envisions the bill to complement the public cause. “Alinsunod din po ito sa layunin ng Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program. Sa katunayan, maraming mga taga-probinsya ang dumadayo sa Metro Manila, Cebu, at Davao, kasi nalalaman nilang may mga libreng school supplies o hindi kaya naman libreng tuition fees.”

Go clarified, however, that the bill does not provide LGUs with more money, but flexibility to use the SEF.

“In return, what we ask from our LGUs is to ensure that every peso from the SEF counts and to make sure that the funds from the SEF are spent wisely for our children and the public,” he added.

He added that the goal of the education system should not stop at ensuring that students are enrolled. “Sa ngayon, libre na ang tuition fees. Pero ang layunin nito ay hindi lang para dumami ang pumapasok na estudyante kundi para dumami ang nakakatapos.”

“Maraming estudyante nga ang nakaka-enrol dahil libre na ang tuition pero wala naman silang mga notebook, uniform, sapatos, at gamit sa pag-aaral.”

“May kakulangan din sa pasahod, training at benepisyo para sa mga guro at empleyado ng mga paaralan,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) expressed its support to the measure during the virtual hearing. Quirino Governor and ULAP President, Dakila Carlo E. Cua said that flexibility is, indeed, what LGUs need to cope up with unpredictable situations such as pandemics.

“In behalf of ULAP, we’d like to thank our senators for teaching our LGUs. Tama po na ang kailangan sa SEF ay ang flexibility gaya ng sinabi ni Senator Bong Go,” Cua said.

Cua also requested for the government to consider providing a negative list, rather than a positive list, when deliberating the regulations for the SEF.

“Pagdating po sa SEF, sana wala nang positive list. Kung gusto ng konting regulation ng gobyerno, negative list na lang. Ang ibig sabihin, kung pwede po sabihin niyo na lang ang bawal, lahat ng hindi bawal pwede po para magkaroon ng creativity ang LGUs,” Cua mentioned.

Go then urged his fellow lawmakers to provide LGUs with the flexibility they need to ensure quality education for their constituents.

“Huwag na po natin itong ipagkait sa kanila. Huwag po nating ipagkait sa ating mga kabataan ang magandang buhay na naghihintay sa kanila sa tulong ng magandang edukasyon,” Go said.

“Nasa kamay natin ang kanilang kinabukasan. Ito po sana ang isa-puso at isip natin sa magiging talakayan natin ngayong araw na ito,” he ended.