Bong Go urges gov’t to maximize available funds for the expanded social amelioration

Ensure seamless distribution prioritizing those in NCR plus

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go urged on Friday, March 26, concerned government agencies to maximize available funds for the proposed new social amelioration program as many Filipinos have been reported to experience hunger due to the continuing quarantine restrictions amid the pandemic.

“Nakausap ko po kahapon si Secretary (Carlos) Dominguez. Hindi ko po tinitigilan pati si Secretary (Wendel) Avisado, sabi ko maghanap kayo ng pagkukunan, kung maaari walisin n’yo kung ano ang pwedeng walisin,” Go said during a radio interview.

Go also stressed that the provision of additional “ayuda” should be expanded and must include all vulnerable sectors, including those who lost their jobs. He particularly emphasized that such assistance must be provided to those affected by stricter quarantine restrictions in “NCR plus” areas.

“‘Yung mga hindi nagagamit na pondo ay gamitin n’yo na lang po sa mga kababayan nating naghihirap. Kinukulong natin sila para hindi magkahawahan, halos kalahati lang nakakapagtrabaho at maraming nawalan ng kabuhayan,” he lamented.

“Dapat mabigyan ng ayuda ‘yung mga mahihirap talaga na nasa NCR plus na mga lugar kung saan mas istrikto ang mga patakaran dahil sa pagtaas ng bilang ng mga nagkakasakit doon,” he emphasized.

Go also reminded concerned agencies to avoid issues they experienced during the initial distribution of social amelioration last year.

“Ang pagbibigay ng SAP ay nagkaroon ng reklamo sa first round. Ilang porsyento lang sa isang munisipyo ang nakakatanggap,” he said.

“Dapat ngayon perpekto n’yo na po ‘yan. I-combine n’yo na po mga nakatanggap sa listahan na una at binalikan n’yo (noong second round). Importante, wala pong ma-miss out at hindi makatanggap para walang reklamo. Para lahat ng nagugutom ay matulungan,” he added.

Go, however, expressed his confidence that the Department of Social Welfare and Development will be able to do their job well in the distribution of assistance.

“Alam n’yo sa ayuda na ‘yan, alam na po ng DSWD ang kanilang trabaho. Wala na akong nakikitang rason na magkakandarapa sila sa distribusyon,” he said.

“Wala pong pulitika dito, ‘wag n’yo haluan ng pulitika, marami na po nasususpinde na mga kapitan na nagsasamantala,” he added.

Go said that while he welcomes the 10K Ayuda Bill proposed by Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, he suggested that the executive branch must also explore options that can already provide the needed aid while the proposed measure is still a pending legislation.

He suggested looking into available funds or savings that can be used without need of congressional action.

“Ako naman po, kung ano ang makakatulong, very much welcome po ‘yan, ‘yung proposal po ni Cong. Alan (Cayetano), very much welcome po ‘yan kaya lang po (habang) nasa recess (ang Kongreso) ngayon, di na makakaantay ang ating mga kababayan,” he said.

“Dapat kung anumang legal na paraan para makapag-allot agad… baka pwedeng i-consider nila. Ako naman, sa legislative, handa akong pag-usapan agad ito kung ano pang bill ang makakatulong, handa akong sumuporta,” he explained.

He, then, assured that he will continue to push for the additional assistance needed to address hunger and ensure that government does its part to ease the burden of Filipinos in distress.

“‘Wag kayo mag-alala, ‘di ako titigil sa kakakulit. Si Pangulong Duterte, concerned po sya, ayaw niya may magutom bagama’t bumaba na ang hunger (rate) ngayon at unemployment base po sa data,” Go said.

“Hindi po ito sapat, ‘di tayo makukuntento dito, nagkaroon tayo quarantine measure, marami po ang nawalan ng kabuhayan, pati mga OFWs nawalan ng trabaho, kaya dapat patuloy ang ating pagtulong sa mga tao,” he added.

Meanwhile, Go urged Filipinos to remain vigilant and continue cooperating with authorities in order to stop COVID-19 and overcome the crisis.

No more excuses for telco companies not to improve their services — Bong Go

In light of the comprehensive legislations and policies being implemented by the government to streamline business processing in the country, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go told telecommunications companies that they have no excuses anymore not to improve their services.

“Meron na pong report na talagang ginagawa na po ng paraan ng ating gobyerno na mapabilis ang serbisyo ng telco, kasi ang dahilan ng telco noon matagal ang processing ng permits. So, nagbigay na ng instruction ang Pangulo na bilisan. In two to three weeks po, dapat tapos na ang permit,” Go explained during an interview right after he personally assisted typhoon victims in Legazpi City, Albay on Friday, February 5.

“So, ngayon wala nang dahilan dahil may batas na po ngayon na kapag tumagal ang pagproseso ng permit, pwedeng tanggalin ‘yung mismong nagpapabagal. Pwedeng kasuhan at tanggalin sa trabaho,” he added.

Go is referring to a set of laws and policies implemented by the government to improve ease of doing business in the country by cutting bureaucratic red tape.

The most recent is Republic Act No. 11517 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in December of last year. It authorizes the President to expedite the processing and issuance of national and local permits, licenses, and certifications in times of national emergency.

The law intends to make life easier for business owners and ordinary citizens alike when applying for government documents, such as licenses, permits and certifications during national emergencies, such as the pandemic.

Duterte also warned in August local government units to act on permit applications of telecommunications companies within three days or they will be charged with corruption or face possible suspension.

In May 2018, Duterte signed into law RA No. 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act. The law, which amends the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007, seeks to streamline the process of starting and running a business in the country.

The law provides for the standardized deadline for government transactions, a single unified business application form, establishment of business one-stop shops, and a zero-contact policy to eliminate corruption.

The law also requires the Department of Information and Communications Technology to establish a central business portal which will receive all business applications, and the Philippine Business Databank which will stand as a repository of information on all businesses registered in the Philippines.

With the President’s approval of Republic Act No. 11032, the DICT, headed by Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II, established the Central Business Portal which aims to be the single online portal for all business-related transactions with the government, including applications for business permits, clearances, and licenses. The DICT recently launched the CBP Phase 1 last January 28, 2021 and features a unified application form and user dashboard which enables businesses to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Bureau of Internal Revenue online as well as the BIR ePayment system for registration fees and the registration of employer numbers for the social security agencies: Social Security System, PhilHealth, and Pag-IBIG.

In relation to Republic Act No. 11032, the DICT also spearheaded the issuance of a Joint Memorandum Circular last July 2020 to streamline requirements and reduce procedural delays in securing necessary permits, licenses, clearances, certificates, and other requirements in constructing common towers—reducing processing time from 241 days to sixteen days; permits from thirteen to eight; and documentary requirements from 86 to 35.

With the entry of a third telco player, Dito Telecommunity, Go said that business competition will further foster improvement of internet services for consumers.

“Ngayon, meron pa tayong pangatlong telco player. So, dapat po, mas meron nang competition, mas pag-igihan pa nila ang serbisyo,” he said.

Go also filed in July of last year a measure institutionalizing the transition of the government to e-governance in the digital age amid the current challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate Bill No. 1738, or the E-Governance Act of 2020, mandates the government to establish an integrated, interconnected, and interoperable information and resource-sharing and communications network spanning the entirety of the national and local government, an internal records management information system, an information database, and digital portals for the delivery of public services.

Go reiterated the benefits of prioritizing the transition to e-governance platforms, saying that they will reduce red tape and corruption, and improve efficiency and productivity of government processes.

“Having a transparent, efficient and responsive delivery of government services is key to reducing corruption and empowering the people to exact accountability from public servants,” he emphasized. “

Bong Go files bill to defer PhilHealth contribution hike

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, on Wednesday, January 20, filed Senate Bill No. 2000 which seeks to grant the President of the Philippines the authority to suspend the scheduled increase in the premium contribution rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation.

“Mag-focus muna tayo kung paano matutulungan ang mga kababayan nating nangangailangan dahil sa COVID-19 crisis. Sa panahon ngayon, kailangan nating isaalang-alang muna ang pangangailangan nila,” said Go

“Lalo na ngayon na nasa health emergency ang bansa, nawawalan ng kakayahan ang mga Pilipinong magbigay ng dagdag na kontribusyon dahil sa krisis. Sabi nga nila, in this time of crisis, every single peso counts!” he added.

In line with this, Go has urged the national government to shoulder first the necessary funding to implement the Universal Health Care Law while majority of Filipinos are still overcoming the adverse effects of the COVID-19 crisis on their livelihoods and the whole economy.

“Huwag na natin munang dagdagan ang pasakit ng taumbayan. Kung kaya naman, ang gobyerno muna ang sumalo sa kailangang pondo ng PhilHealth para maimplementa ng maayos ang Universal Health Care Law,” Go urged.

SBN 2000 authorizes the President to suspend, upon the recommendation of the PhilHealth Board, the increase in premium contributions when public interest so requires, such as times of national or public health emergencies. The increase and all succeeding increases shall be implemented in the year following the cessation of the emergency.

In March 2020, PhilHealth issued Circular No. 2020-005 which provides for a new schedule of contributions mandated under Republic Act No. 11223 or the UHC Act.

Mandatory PhilHealth contributions are set to increase annually from 2020 to 2025 until they reach 5% of the monthly income. Direct contributors were to pay a fixed monthly premium of P350 to P2,450 depending on their monthly income starting January 1, 2021.

Employee contributions will be shared equally by the employee and employer. Meanwhile, self-paying members, professional practitioners, land-based migrant workers, and other direct contributors with no employee-employer relationship shall shoulder the full amount.

To ensure people’s continued access to affordable health coverage, Go earlier issued an urgent call to government finance managers and his fellow legislators to defer the scheduled increase in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its adverse impacts on the jobs and livelihoods of Filipinos.

He emphasized that “government, as a whole, must do its best to unburden Filipinos by shouldering the cost while ensuring that the Universal Health Care Law is implemented and the services of PhilHealth are unhampered.”

“Palagi naming inuuna ni Pangulong [Rodrigo] Duterte kung ano ang makakabuti sa nakararami, lalo na sa mga mahihirap at pinaka-nangangailangan. Kung kaya’t nagsalita na ang Pangulo na ipagpaliban muna ang pag-increase ng rates ng contributions ng PhilHealth habang meron pa tayong pandemyang kinakaharap,” said Go.

“Sinabi niya na kung may maipapasang batas ang Lehislatibo na naglalayong ipatupad ang deferment, o kung may kailangang aprubahan na dagdag na pondo mula sa gobyerno para hindi maantala ang serbisyo ng PhilHealth, pipirmahan niya ito pagkatapos mapag-aralan nang mabuti,” he continued.

In response, the state insurance agency expressed their support for the President and his decision in a statement issued on January 5. It announced it would continue to use the 3% contributions rate as opposed to the 3.5%.

PhilHealth also committed to work closely with the Houses of Congress to find a “whole-of-government and whole-of-nation solution” to the issue.

“Should there be no new legislation passed for this purpose, the state health insurer will proceed with the scheduled premium rate and ceiling as provided for in the UHC law,” the Philhealth said.

“Cognizant of the fortuitous situation that ravaged so many lives and derailed the economy, PhilHealth will do its part in alleviating the lives of Filipinos especially insofar as their health is concerned,” the statement continued.

Bong Go suggests deferment of PhilHealth contribution increase

“Hirap na hirap na po ang ating mga kababayan, huwag na natin silang mas pahirapan pa”.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health risk and adverse impacts on the jobs and livelihoods of Filipinos, Senator and chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go said that the possible deferment of the scheduled increase of the member contributions for the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation in 2021 must be considered and studied further.

“While I recognize that this increase is mandated by law, we must explore all possible legal remedies to avoid any additional burden to Filipinos at this time when we are still addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Go emphasized.

Go also encouraged government finance managers and fellow legislators to work together and explore options for deferring or restructuring payment terms and rates of various financial obligations in accordance with existing laws.

“Pwede nating pag aralan na i-amend ‘yung law or i-defer natin ito through a provision in Bayanihan 3. Kung magpasa tayo ng Bayanihan 3, pwede pong ma-identify ng gobyerno doon sa batas kung ano ang pwedeng i-defer muna while nasa pandemic pa tayo,” he explained.

The Senator acknowledged that the increase, mandated under the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law, is necessary to sustain the services of the state insurance agency. However, he pointed out that thousands of Filipinos, including overseas Filipino workers, have lost their jobs and livelihoods and, as a result, may be unable to pay or overburdened by the increased premium rate.

“May pandemya tayo ngayon at napakahirap pigain ang mga Pilipino na madagdagan pa ng 0.5 percent dito sa babayaran nila. Kaya nga po noong nakaraang Mayo ay sinabi ni Pangulo [Rodrigo Duterte] na boluntaryo lang sa OFWs ‘yung pagbabayad ng remittances,” Go said in a statement.

“Hirap na hirap na po ang ating mga kababayan, huwag na natin silang mas pahirapan pa. Siguraduhin natin na bawat piso na ibinabayad nila ay makakabenepisyo sa kanila,” he added.

Go urged government to help millions of Filipino workers, especially those grappling with monetary and health challenges, keep their health insurance while easing their financial burdens.

“Ang pakiusap ko sa mga kasamahan natin sa gobyerno ay huwag natin ipasa ang pasakit sa taumbayan lalo na sa panahon ng kanilang pangangailangan,” he said.

From 2020 to 2025, mandatory PhilHealth contributions will be increased annually until they reach 5% of the monthly income. Starting January 1, 2021, direct contributors shall pay a fixed monthly premium of P350 to P2,450 depending on their monthly income.

The contributions of the employed members will be shared equally by the employees and employers. Meanwhile, self-paying members, professional practitioners and land-based migrant workers, and other direct contributors with no employee-employer relationship must shoulder the full amount.

“Tulungan natin ang ating mga kababayan, lalong-lalo na po ang mga OFWs natin, mga walang pambayad o ‘yung mga nawalan po ng mga trabaho — kawawa naman po. Wala na nga silang trabaho, tapos sisingilin pa natin,” continued the Senator,

Go sternly reminded PhilHealth to ensure the proper use of the funds available while expressing confidence that agency President and CEO Atty. Dante Gierran would prevent any corruption from occurring.

With the agency in danger of running out of funds, however, the Senator disclosed he would personally discuss with the President the possibility of augmenting PhilHealth’s budget to ensure that the provisions of the Universal Health Care Law are fully and properly implemented and Filipinos can continue to access affordable health care.

“I will personally appeal to the President na kung maaari, government na lang po ang mag-infuse or mag-augment later on kung saka-sakaling kukulangin ang pera ng PhilHealth,” said Go.

“We cannot afford also na masakripisyo itong UHC natin dahil lahat ng Pilipino ay miyembro ng PhilHealth sa ilalim ng Universal Health Care Law. Ayaw nating umabot sa punto na wala nang pambayad ang PhilHealth. Dapat ang gobyerno ang sumalo nito, lalung-lalo na sa mga kapatid nating mahihirap na walang pambayad.”

Bong Go eyes possible Bayanihan 3 to further assist vulnerable sectors affected by the pandemic

Given the ongoing pandemic and the emergence of new strains of COVID-19 in other countries, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go said that legislators and finance managers are studying the possibility of another measure to strengthen the country’s response and recovery efforts.

After the passage of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act this year, Go said that there may be a need for a “Bayanihan 3” to further assist vulnerable sectors, including those who have lost their jobs as well as previously locally stranded individuals who have returned to their provinces and are seeking economic opportunities.

“Kung may pera po, possible ‘yan (Bayanihan 3). Kakausapin ko si (Finance) Secretary (Carlos) Dominguez… kung talagang hirap tayo ngayong darating na taon, (titignan) kung mayro’n pong posibilidad… kakausapin ko pa po na sana po’y magkaroon tayo ng Bayanihan 3,” Go said during a radio interview on Monday, December 28.

He added that he will discuss with President Rodrigo Duterte the possibility of proposing the Bayanihan 3 measure.

“Kung saka-sakali, kakausapin ko rin po si Pangulo, kung mayro’n naman silang pagkukunan, siguro sa mga susunod na buwan ay maaaring pag-aaralan po na magkaroon tayo ng Bayanihan 3,” he said.

“Titingnan (natin) kung saan talaga ang mas nangangailangan pa ng tulong, kung sino pa ‘yung hindi nakakatanggap ng tulong na mga sektor,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Senator said that almost all locally stranded individuals had been transported back to their provinces.

“Almost all na po nakauwi, ‘yung iba nakabalik na rito eh. ‘Yung mga nakauwi na ng probinsya, ‘yung iba bumalik na siguro dito dahil may mga trabaho na po ‘yung iba. Pero sa totoo lang, talagang napakahirap po na ma-stranded na wala kang kamag-anak,” Go said.

The Senator recounted the recent plight of LSIs who were stranded in Metro Manila at the height of the strict implementation of the community quarantine, saying, “Alam n’yo po, mahirap ma-stranded dito sa Maynila, wala silang mga kamag-anak dito at kawawa.”

“Kaya nga sabi ni Pangulo, hayaan n’yo namang makauwi ‘yung mga kababayan natin. Kasi, at least, doon sa probinsya, nando’n ‘yung kapitbahay nila, mga kamag-anak nila,” he added.

Go also emphasized the importance of managing the pandemic well through the cooperation of the public to alleviate the burden on the healthcare system. He added that the need for stricter quarantine measures may be unnecessary if authorities are able to properly implement health protocols in communities.

“At kung manatiling manageable po ang bilang ng kaso ng COVID-19 sa bansa, baka hindi na kailangang maghigpit pa tayo ng quarantine measures,” Go said.

“Kaya dapat ma-manage natin na hindi bumagsak ang ating healthcare system dahil pag bumagsak ito, malaking problema at mas malaking gastos sa ating gobyerno,” he added.