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Tussle over revenue pits UHC vs infrastructure

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LEGISLATORS have declared their intent to block the use of road tax revenue on health care, saying that the proper use of the proceeds is to maintain and improve infrastructure.

Representative Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte, Jr. of Camarines Sur’s second district, the author of a bill similar to the proposed Motor Vehicle Road User’s Tax Act currently being debated, said the proceeds from the tax should be dedicated to public works.

If passed, the bill proposes to allocate 50% of road tax proceeds to support Universal Health Care, which is set for its first year of implementation next year according to Republic Act No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act.

Health Undersecretary Gerardo V. Bayugo told a hearing at the House that P257 billion is needed for the first year of UHC.

“In the fiscal year 2020 national expenditure program, the approved (Department of Health) budget was only P162 billion, which is P94 billion short for the implementation of the Universal Health Care,” Mr. Bayugo said.

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Mr. Villafuerte, a deputy speaker, countered that health care funding has been addressed in several measures.

“I would like to emphasize we already passed measures to fund the Universal Health Care. I feel the funds (in the road tax bill) for the UHC, should really go either to the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) or DoTr (Department of Transportation),” Mr. Villafuerte said.

He added, “There are funds (for UHC) available from the tax packages,” he said, adding the roads are also a priority.

According to one version of the road tax measure, House Bill No. 4695, 50% of the proceeds will be earmarked for UHC with the remainder going to public utility vehicle modernization until 2024.

From 2025, all such revenue will be dedicated entirely to UHC.

Rep. Lorenz R. Defensor of Iloilo’s third district added that addressing transportation needs will also reduce the burden on the health system.

“The continuous modernization of our transportation sector is also tied to health care, as far as emissions and road safety are concerned. There are bills pending with the committee on transportation such as the mandatory driver education program that should be funded,” Mr. Defensor said.

Rep. Estrellita B. Suansing of Nueva Ecija’s first district questioned the basis for increasing road taxes to fund UHC.

“I agree with… Deputy Speaker Villafuerte that we should put the funds in the General Fund and not in the Universal Health Care. Kasi parang (it’s like) we are collecting additional taxes (using) universal health care as a reason,” she said. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras

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