PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

LAWMAKERS from both chambers of Congress are aiming to allocate at least P90 billion for healthcare workers’ allowances and benefits in next year’s budget, according to the chair of the House appropriations committee.  

“We placed some unprogrammed (funds in the House’s version), but we hope that we will reach P90 billion in programmed funds (for next year’s budget). That’s our target,” ACT-CIS Rep. Eric G. Yap told reporters.  

This comes as the bicameral conference committee started its meetings on Monday to reconcile disagreeing provisions in their version of the proposed P5.024-trillion 2022 national budget.  

Mr. Yap said that he hopes to allot a bigger budget for special risk allowance (SRA) of health workers as many of them expect to be given these benefits amid the coronavirus pandemic.  

“We will (realign) a huge portion of this budget to the SRAs because it seems that the Department of Health did not include the SRAs in the National Expenditure Program,” he said in Filipino. 

The Department of Health earlier said in a House budget hearing that they initially proposed P50.4 billion for healthcare workers’ benefits but this was later slashed by the Department of Budget and Management. 

Within the P65 billion in realignments to the House’s version of the budget bill, P4.5 billion was allotted for SRA for private and public health workers. 

Healthcare workers have staged protest actions to demand the immediate release of their delayed benefits such as hazard pay, SRA, and meals and transportation allowance.    

Meanwhile, Mr. Yap along with House Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez target to finalize the reconciled budget bill by the end of this week and have it ratified by Congress next week before they adjourn for the holidays.  

“It is to the best interest of our people that the 2022 General Appropriations Act be signed by President Duterte before the end of the year so as to avoid a reenacted budget in 2022,” Mr. Romualdez said in a statement. — Russell Louis C. Ku