SENATORS on Wednesday urged government agencies and local governments to prioritize frontline health workers for assistance once calamity funds are released.

President Rodrigo. R. Duterte on March 16 issued a proclamation declaring a state of national calamity for six months amid a novel coronavirus outbreak.

“Declaring a state of calamity is necessary in order to be able to release the P16 billion calamity fund of the National Government as well as the use of calamity funds of local government units,” Senator Francis N. Pangilinan said in a statement yesterday.

Mr. Pangilinan said the government should prioritize buying more COVID-19 test kits, protective gears for health workers and medical equipment for hospitals. The budget may also be used to put in place more isolation wards for COVID-19 patients, he said.

Food supplies, relief goods and cash assistance should also be given to daily wage earners, the senator said.

“The decision is necessary to bolster sweeping relief and emergency efforts to contain the outbreak and at the same time ease the burden of our frontliners and ordinary citizens as we come to grips with this public health crisis,” Senator Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares said of the proclamation.

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said he agreed with the proclamation, but asked government officials to ensure that the funding goes to the public.

“I cannot imagine concerned local government officials in charge of dispensing those funds can still have gall and malevolent intention of stealing the monies under their control,” he said in a separate statement. — Charmaine A. Tadalan