118th Malasakit Center opens in Bukidnon

As Bong Go assures poor and indigent patients of convenient access to medical assistance for their health-related needs

In line with the Duterte Administration’s commitment to improving access to healthcare and the general well-being of the nation, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go personally attended the launch of the country’s 118th Malasakit Center at the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital in Maramag, Bukidnon on Wednesday, June 9.

This is the first hospital in the province to open a Malasakit Center. Other hospitals in neighboring provinces include the Northern Mindanao Medical Center and J.R. Borja General Hospital in Cagayan de Oro City; Mayor Hilarion A. Ramiro Sr. Medical Center in Ozamiz City; Kapatagan Provincial Hospital in Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte; Cotabato Provincial Hospital in Kidapawan City; and Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.

In a speech delivered during the ceremony, Go assured poor and indigent patients that they may conveniently avail of the services of the center in order to access quality medical care.

“Mga kababayan, mayroon na tayong Malasakit Center sa Bukidnon. Isinulong ko ito sa Senado sa tulong ni Senator [Juan Miguel] Zubiri. Sabihan niyo ang mga kapitbahay niyo na mayro’n na kayong Malasakit Center na tutulong para wala na kayong babayaran sa inyong pagpapa-ospital,” began Go.

“Wala itong pinipili. Basta poor at indigent patient ka, qualified ka. Pera niyo ito na binabalik lang namin sa pamamagitan ng maayos na serbisyo,” he added.

The Malasakit Centers program was institutionalized under Republic Act No. 11463, also known as the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019, which Go principally authored and sponsored in the Senate prior to President Rodrigo Duterte signing it into law on December 2, 2019.

The center is a one-stop shop for the government’s medical assistance programs. Its partner agencies include the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. The Malasakit Center covers laboratories, medicines, surgeries and other patient services and expenses.

“Sobrang saya namin sa ibinigay mo sa amin. Gusto kong malaman mo na parehas ang ating puso … (gusto nating) libre sa lahat ng tao, walang bayad,” said Governor Jose Maria Zubiri Jr.

“Mr. Senator, we are so happy. I feel like crying. Why are you so kind? The people out there, they’ve waited for you. With what you’ve told them, you already made a miracle out of this. You will never be forgotten in the province of Bukidnon. We never forget people who have a heart, especially for the poor and poorest among them all. Thank you very much,” the Governor added.

As the Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Go further vowed to pursue measures that will strengthen access to affordable quality health care and improve the delivery of services, especially in poor and remote areas.

He thanked Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri for supporting the recent passage of the 13 hospital bills in the Senate which seek to boost the capacities of various local health facilities.

“Alam ko ang sitwasyon sa mga ospital natin dahil pumupunta ako sa baba. Alam niyo ba na sa sobrang dami ng mga pasyente, minsan nakahilera na ang mga kama sa corridor tapos sa bawat kama may apat na pasyente? Paano gagaling ang tao kung ganyan ang kalagayan nila?” asked Go.

“Kaya sabi ko hindi ako titigil na ipaglaban sa Senado ang mga hospital bills na ito dahil para ‘to sa mga mahihirap. Sa panahon ngayon, malalaman mo na hindi talaga biro ang pagiging mahirap, na wala kang malalapitan. Hindi natin alam kung kailan matatapos ang pandemya kaya dapat maghanda at magdagdag na tayo ng mga bagong ospital, kama at equipment,” he said.

The Senator stressed the importance of a strong medical work force and urged all remaining unvaccinated medical frontliners to get inoculated. To ensure the stability of the health care system amid the pandemic, he explained that the government must vaccinate all priority groups in the order prescribed as soon as possible.

“Pakiusap namin, ‘wag na kayong mamili. The best vaccine is the one available in front of you. Magpabakuna na kayo para mas protektado ang inyong mga katawan. Target natin na ma-achieve ang herd immunity ngayong taon,” said Go.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri, who is from Bukidnon, took this opportunity to seek Go’s support in acquiring more supplies of vaccines for the province.

“Mayroon request Kuya Bong ang mga kababayan natin dito, Kung maaari ay dagdagan ang mga bakuna para sa mga mamamayan sa Bukidnon. Alam ko mahal mo ang Bukidnon dahil magkapitbahay lang tayo,” said Zubiri.

”Yes sir. Sisiguraduhin natin ‘yan na madadagdagan… magrerequest po tayo (sa national government),” vowed Go in response.

Meanwhile, in support of their continued dedication to their duties amid the difficult situation, the Senator’s team distributed meals, food packs, vitamins, masks and face shields to a total of 462 medical frontliners after the ceremony.

Selected beneficiaries were also given bicycles for their commuting needs or new pairs of shoes so they can work comfortably. Others were provided computer tablets to help their children with their blended learning activities.

The DSWD also provided 249 rank-and-file hospital employees with financial assistance in a separate distribution. The same assistance was likewise extended to 88 indigent patients.

The Senator went on to thank various individuals for their tireless efforts to protect the health and well-being of Bukidnons. Among those present during the activity were Senator Zubiri, Assistant Secretary Girlie Veloso of the Office of President, Governor Zubiri Jr., and Chief of Hospital Dr. Edmundo Garcia.

He also acknowledged local leaders present such as Valencia City Mayor Azucena Huervas, Damulog Mayor Melino Buro, Don Carlos Mayor Ma. Victoria Pizarro, Kadingilan Mayor Jerry Canoy, Kalilangan Mayor Omaradji Pizarro, Libona Mayor Aurelio Lopez, Pangantucan Mayor Miguel Silva Jr., Quezon Mayor Pablo Lorenzo III, Talakag Mayor Vergito Factura, Brgy. North Poblacion Punong Barangay Val Auditor, and Brgy. South Poblacion Punong Barangay Tetet Galilea.

“Magkapitbahay lang naman tayo. Huwag kayong mag-alinlangan na lumapit sa amin ni Pangulong Duterte dahil trabaho namin ang magserbisyo sa inyo. Nagpapasalamat kami sa inyong lahat dahil binigyan niyo kami ng pagkakataon na magserbisyo sa ating bayan,” continued Go.

“Sa mga kababayan nating mahihirap, nandito kami para sa inyong lahat. Hindi kami mangangako na kaya namin gawin ang lahat, pero makakaasa kayo ng gagawin namin ang lahat sa abot ng aming makakaya para magserbisyo sa inyo,” he ended.

Bong Go urges government to provide masks to protocol violators

“As he reminds authorities to instill discipline while showing compassion in fighting COVID-19”

Following the stern order of President Rodrigo Duterte to the Philippine National Police to arrest mask protocol violators, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has urged the government to also provide them with free masks as the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Bilang chair ng Senate Committee on Health, sang-ayon ako na kailangang mas higpitan ang pagpapatupad ng mga protocols para maiwasan ang lalong pagkalat ng sakit,” he said.

“Subalit, maliban sa tapang upang madisiplina ang ayaw talaga sumunod, kailangan din natin ng malasakit para sa mga kababayan nating hindi makasunod dahil sa kahirapan ng buhay at kakulangan ng tamang impormasyon,” he emphasized.

Go said that the PNP and the Department of Trade and Industry, along with his office, have already agreed to provide free masks to detainees who violated the health protocol.

“Kanina po kinausap ko po si General Eleazar, ‘yung incoming PNP Chief, pati si (DTI) Secretary Mon Lopez, along with my office,” Go shared in his speeches during the launches of two newly opened Malasakit Centers in Mt. Province and Apayao on May 7.

“Napagkasunduan po namin na kapag nahuli po ng pulis at bago ilagay sa selda at tuturuan, ile-lecture, ay bigyan po ng face mask dahil baka ang mga ito ay wala talagang pambili ng face mask, kawawa naman. Baka doon pa sila magkahawaan sa selda,” he said.

Go reminded authorities of the need to instill discipline while showing compassion to poor and vulnerable sectors in order for them to comply with the necessary guidelines to keep communities safe from the threats of COVID-19.

“Maliban sa pagbigay ng libreng mask, turuan rin dapat ang taumbayan kung bakit importante ang mga patakarang ito. Sa panahong ito na kung saan andyan pa ang banta ng kalabang hindi naman nakikita, kailangan natin ang disiplina at pakikiisa ng bawat Pilipino,” he said.

“Handa ang gobyernong magmalasakit at gawin ang lahat para mailigtas ang buhay ng ating mga kababayan lalo na yung mga hirap na hirap na,” he reiterated.

Go explained that individuals who are not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 may still be a carrier of the virus and spread it to others. This makes mask wearing crucial in preventing transmission.

“Nabanggit po ng ating mahal na Pangulo na ipapahuli niya ang mga hindi nagma-mask. Bagama’t ayaw naman ni Pangulo na ikulong kayo at gusto niya pong disiplinahin at turuan po ng leksyon ‘yung mga talagang pasaway… Kasi hindi natin alam na marami pong asymptomatic, iyon po ang nagdadala ng sakit kapag hindi nagma-mask po,” he said.

Go said that he asked President Duterte to also provide free masks to apprehended individuals so that they will not spread the infection should they be detained.

“Kapag hinuli naman sila, naaawa rin naman po kami ni Pangulo,” said Go.

“Kaya kinausap ko po si Pangulong Duterte kagabi, at sabi ko, ‘Mr. President, since namimigay naman tayo ng masks, kapag nahuli mga pasaway, pwede bang pagdating sa presinto, bigyan na lang natin sila ng face mask bago sila umuwi, o bago sila ilagay sa selda baka doon pa magkahawaan’,” the Senator recounted.

Go also emphasized the observation of medical experts that the proper wearing of standard masks reduces the risk of contracting and spreading the virus by 85%. Meanwhile, proper wearing of masks, coupled with face shields and social distancing, further reduces the risk to more than 90%.

“Ako naman po, alam n’yo gagawin po ng kapulisan natin, gusto po nilang mailigtas kayo dahil delikado po na wala kayong mask at napatunayan naman po na 90% ‘pag naka-mask tayo at naka-face shield, maiwasan ang pagkahawa sa COVID-19,” explained the Senator.

“Kaya po disiplina ang kailangan dito, mga kababayan ko. Sumunod kayo sa paalala ng gobyerno habang nagbabakuna tayo,” he reminded.

While he and Duterte empathize with Filipinos, especially those who cannot afford to buy masks, Go said that the policy is aimed at stubborn individuals who refuse to comply with the health guidelines.

“Nakakaawa rin naman po ang Pilipino, lalong-lalo na po ang walang mga face mask. Pero marami dyan mga pasaway rin talaga, dahil hindi nila alam na delikado po talaga itong COVID-19 na sakit,” he said.

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Bong Go calls for review of travel protocols and guidelines to prevent entry of new and emerging COVID-19,

Welcomes approval of travel restrictions for travelers from India

Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go urged the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases to continuously review and adjust the travel protocols in place to prevent the entry of new and potentially more infectious COVID-19 variants from other countries into the Philippines.

Following a devastating second wave of COVID-19 infections in India, Go lauded the decision of the government to immediately impose restrictions on travelers coming from the said country. He also issued an urgent appeal to concerned authorities to study the imposition of similar restrictions on inbound travel from other countries, such as Brazil, which have a high number of confirmed and active cases.

“Habang sinusubukan nating masolusyunan ang pagtaas ng mga kaso sa Pilipinas, bantayan din natin ang mga pangyayari sa iba pang parte ng mundo para hindi ito mas lalong makaapekto sa kasalukuyang sitwasyon sa loob ng bansa. Umaapela ako sa gobyerno na pag-aralan ang posibleng pagpapatupad ng travel restrictions sa mga papasok mula sa mga bansa kung saan mataas ang kaso ng COVID-19, gaya ng Brazil, sa lalong madaling panahon,” said Go.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced all travelers coming from India or those with travel history to India within the last 14 days preceding arrival shall be prohibited from entering the Philippines beginning April 29 until May 14.

Meanwhile, passengers already in transit from the abovementioned country or have been to the same within 14 days immediately preceding their arrival to the Philippines, will be required to undergo stricter quarantine and testing protocols.

The B.1.617 variant, which has been blamed for the rise of cases in India, has two notable mutations which have enabled it to transmit at a faster rate from human to human.

In light of these developments, Go implored the Department of Health to take all necessary steps and strengthen all COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and case isolation and treatment efforts in order to prepare the country for any potential increase in infections.

“Kailangang palaging i-review ang existing border controls at paigtingin lalo ang mga travel restrictions, guidelines, timelines at exemptions na ipinapatupad natin. Maliban dito, paigtingin pa dapat ang mga hakbang ng gobyerno kontra COVID-19, katulad ng mas mabilis na vaccination roll-out, targeted testing, contact tracing, at iba pa,” he appealed.

The Senator further warned the public against complacency. He encouraged them to diligently follow the necessary health and safety protocols issued by the government to keep them safe, such as social distancing, wearing masks and face shields in public, and frequent hand washing.

“Bagamat patuloy ang pagbabakuna, huwag po tayong magkumpyansa. Gawin na natin ang kinakailangan sa lalong madaling panahon para mas maproteksyunan ang ating mga kababayan mula sa sakit na ito. Sa ating mga kababayan, huwag nating sayangin ang lahat ng mga sakripisyo natin simula noong nakaraang taon. Patuloy tayong maging disiplinado sa pagsunod sa mga patakaran,” encouraged Go.

“Magtulungan at makiisa tayo sa bayanihan dahil delikado pa ngayon habang andyan pa ang mga banta ng kalabang hindi naman nakikita. Magmalasakit din tayo sa ating frontliners na patuloy na nagseserbisyo para mailigtas ang buhay ng kapwa nating Pilipino.

Bong Go lauds participation of all sectors in the bayanihan efforts to overcome COVID-19

Reiterates that a whole-of-nation approach is necessary

While the government remains on top of the situation in addressing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go reiterated his call for a whole-of-nation approach to overcome the challenges posed by the new surges of infections worldwide.

“Bawat isa sa atin ay may ginagampanang papel sa laban kontra COVID-19. Bagama’t ginagawa ng gobyerno ang lahat upang mapagaan ang hirap na pinapasan ng ating mga kababayan, talaga namang napakabigat ng pasakit na dulot ng COVID-19 at kailangan ang pagkakaisa ng lahat upang malampasan ito,” Go said.

The Senator lauded the active participation of various sectors in the bayanihan efforts to unburden the poor and vulnerable. He assured that all kinds of initiatives to help fellow Filipinos must be welcomed and commended.

“Kaya ang mga inisyatibo, tulad ng community pantry, ay patunay na katuwang sa labang ito ang partisipasyon at kooperasyon ng lahat ng sektor ng lipunan. Tama lang na magbigay ng tulong ayon sa kaya yung mga may sobra. Kaysa masayang o mag-expire, mabuti nang mapakinabangan ng mga mas nangangailangan,” he said.

“Tandaan natin na hindi ito laban ng gobyerno lamang. Laban ito ng buong sambayanang Pilipino at ng buong mundo. Nakakatuwang makita na nananatiling buhay ang diwa ng bayanihan sa kabila ng sunud-sunod na mga pagsubok na dumadating sa bansa,” he added.

Go further encouraged Filipinos to always prioritize the welfare of the general population and do their part in helping those in need.He added that efforts of various groups to help must be recognized instead of criticized.

“Tulad ng palagi kong sinasabi, kung anumang kabutihan ang pwede nating gawin para sa kapwa ay gawin na natin ngayon. Hindi po ito panahon para magsisihan, magsiraan, o maglamangan pa. Panahon po ito ng pagtutulungan, pagmamalasakit, at pakikiisa sa bayanihan,” he emphasized.

“Walang kulay, walang pinipili, at walang pulitika dapat ang pagtulong. Welcome po lahat ‘yan. Huwag nating gamiting panlaban sa gobyerno ang inisyatibo ng iilan na tumulong sa kapwa nilang Pilipino. Iisa lang naman ang hangarin nating lahat bilang isang komunidad at iyan ay ang kabutihan ng buong bansa,” he added.

Meanwhile, Go also urged the private sector to further refine its safety measures to minimize the risks of transmitting the COVID-19 virus, especially in workplaces, while ensuring that essential business operations remain unhampered.

“We seek everyone’s solidarity in strictly observing the health protocols to ensure that we keep new infections at bay and not further overwhelm our healthcare system,” said Go.

He also asked the government to ramp up the production and distribution of masks, especially to those who cannot afford to buy their own.

“The government must step in to provide these necessities and ensure compliance of the public with minimum health standards,” he emphasized.

The Senator also continued to urge the government to always be inclusive by having an open dialogue with health experts and advocates to come up with viable solutions to various issues.

In particular, he reiterated his appeal for the government to facilitate a thorough scientific study of potential COVID-19 medications and treatments, such as Ivermectin.

“Let me clarify that I am not advocating for the use of any specific drug. We have regulatory processes in place that must be followed to protect the welfare of the public. However, we must keep an open mind so that Filipinos can be given access to any drug that may help prevent or cure COVID-19 as long as it has undergone the right process and is scientifically proven safe and effective,” he explained.

As groups and sectors wait for their turn to get inoculated, Go continues to remind Filipinos to be on the lookout and remain vigilant against the threats of COVID-19.

He also hit back on individuals who sow hate and spread disinformation about the pandemic, saying, “your efforts will not derail our focus in serving our fellow Filipinos with utmost diligence, compassion and empathy.”

Amid the nation’s ongoing battle against the pandemic, Go said that the challenges it brings should unite Filipinos rather than divide them.

“Let us show the world that no crisis can break the spirit of the Filipino people,” he ended.

Bong Go supports efforts to locally manufacture vaccines and establish virology institute

To eventually achieve ‘vaccine self-reliant PH’, preparations must start now

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go underscored the importance of learning from the experiences brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and being more proactive in preparing for other similar crises in the future. In particular, Go emphasized that in order to address the country’s limited vaccine supply and heavy reliance on global sources, preparations and initiatives to locally manufacture vaccines in the Philippines must start now.

Go earlier lauded the ongoing efforts of the national government, in coordination with the private sector, to boost the Philippines’ capabilities to locally manufacture and eventually develop its own vaccines.

In an interview on Saturday, April 17, Go said that President Rodrigo Duterte himself has instructed concerned public officials to expedite government processes for pharmaceutical companies seeking to locally manufacture COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

“Sinabihan niya (Duterte), si (Department of Trade and Industry) Secretary Mon Lopez na kung sakaling may mag-apply na manufacturing company ay tulungan po,” said Go.

“Ang sabi (ng Pangulo), ang ‘bibliya’ (ng gobyerno) dito ay huwag pahirapan, kundi tulungan kaagad ang mga nais tumulong para makapaglagay ng sarili nating manufacturing po ng bakuna,” he added.

Go earlier stressed the need to accelerate arrangements for public-private partnerships in manufacturing vaccines locally, with the DTI at the helm. He urged concerned agencies to support these initiatives and help expedite the setting-up process, but also asked the companies to ensure all requirements are met in accordance with existing laws and regulations.

As the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines remains limited, Go also confirmed that Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a phone call on April 13, both stressed the importance of ramping up vaccine production and the need to mobilize Russian vaccines to as many countries as possible.

“Isa po sa ginagawa ng gobyerno, nakikiusap po tayo sa ibang bansa. Ito po ang panahon na kailangan nating makipagtulungan at makiusap sa ibang bansa dahil sila po ang merong supply ng bakuna. Sila po ang merong mga manufacturing company,” said Go.

He added that the government is expecting to receive 500,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccines from Russia soon.

“So, ang sinabi naman po ni Russian President Putin, tutulong sila. Bagama’t wala pong pinangakong numero o kailan, inaasahan po natin na darating ang Sputnik V vaccine mula sa Russia ngayong buwan o sa susunod… na 500,000 doses,” Go mentioned.

“Kasi po initially, ang ibinigay lang nila ay 100,000. Pinakiusapan po sila ng gobyerno na gawing 500,000. I think may unang darating na 20,000 na parang pilot run… kasi pag-aaralan pa ang temperature (for storage) na kailangan. Napakalaking tulong na po ito, pandagdag na sa tuluy-tuloy na pagbabakuna sa ating bansa,” he added.

Meanwhile, Go said that in the long-term, the Department of Science and Technology is presently preparing for the establishment of a virology institute in the Philippines, which will eventually enable the country to develop its own vaccines and other related drugs against diseases.

“Sa ngayon po ay pinag-aaralan ng DOST ‘yan. ‘Yan po ang magandang balita kasi maski si Pangulong Duterte, pabor sa vaccine institute. It should be our long-term goal,” explained Go.

The Senator said that these efforts are intended to avoid similar situations where poorer nations are left with fewer supplies of vaccines as compared to richer and more developed countries that have early on invested in health sciences and medical research.

“Kakasabi lang ng WHO (World Health Organization) na talagang inequitable po ang distribution ng bakuna, so dapat po maghanda tayo. Ang ating gobyerno has allocated PhP50 million in the GAA (General Appropriations Act) for the detailed engineering design para sa institute. It is planned to be built in Tarlac,” he shared.

Citing the unpredictable nature of pandemics, Go highlighted the importance of a more proactive approach to ensure that the country is well-prepared should future health crises occur.

“Hindi natin alam kung kailan darating itong panibagong pandemya sa buhay natin. Huwag na po yung mabibigla nanaman tayo dahil hindi tayo naging handa. Mas mabuting proactive na tayo at pag-aralan natin ang lahat ng puwede nating gawin, dahil talagang mahirap matamaan po nitong pandemyang ganito,” he said.