Solon scores cuts, lump sum in DOH 2018 budget

15 August 2017
Vital programs of the Department of Health in 2018 will suffer fund cuts of up to 99.55%, in the face of the continuing practice of lump sum budgeting, said ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio L. Tinio at the hearing for the DOH budget on Monday.
Tinio noted that aside from the reduction of 28.45% in the maintenance and other operating expenses for the 66 regional and special hospitals nationwide, the proposed budget contains drastic cuts in the MOOE of several vital programs.  These include Epidemiology and disease surveillance (from P14.2 billion in 2017 to P63.7 million in 2018, down by 99.55%); Environmental and occupational health (from P74.9 million to P3.7 million, 95.01%); Non-communicable diseases prevention and control (from P2.2 billion to P381.7 million, 82.81%); Elimination of diseases as public health threat such as malaria, schistosomiasis, leprosy and filiariasis (from P894.7 million to P372.5 million, 58.37%); and Prevention and control of other infectious diseases including HIV-AIDS, dengue, food, and water-borne diseases (from P1.97 billion to P1.69 billion, 13.9%).
Health secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said that this is a result of an instruction of the Department of Budget and Management to centralize funds for the “soft component” of these programs (such as training and seminars) into the “Public Health Management Program.”
“This centralization of funds previously broken down in specific programs into a single lump sum is a reversal of efforts towards itemized budgeting since the pork barrel system became an issue in the past administration,” said Tinio.  “This is also a complete turnaround of the stand of DBM Secretary Ben Diokno—He was a vocal critic against lump sums in the previous administrations but now that he is in the helm of the DBM, he resorts to the same practice.”
“We in Congress and the public in general are not shown the specifics of this lump sum so we also can’t see later on if these funds are spent for whatever they are intended.  This lack of transparency is exactly why we are against lump sum budgeting,” said the solon, noting that lump sums are more vulnerable to being declared as savings and then realigned.
Tinio demanded for the itemization of the Public Health Management Program as well as increases in the programs whose funds were slashed.  “We cannot agree to these cuts considering that the need for these programs is greater now.  A bird flu outbreak has just been confirmed in Pampanga, and there are reports of substantial increases in malaria morbidity and mortality, mortality from non-communicable diseases, and newly-diagnosed HIV cases,” he said, citing government sources including the Philippine Development Plan.
Meanwhile, Tinio noted that the DOH’s low target for “Access to establishments/health products compliant to regulatory policies” (70%) will have serious impact on consumer protection and the health and safety of Filipinos using food and health products including medicines found in the market.
Finally, he scored government in giving the Food and Drug Administration zero MOOE and leaving it to run its operations on income such as licensing, registration, and other related regulatory fees.  “We cannot allow the FDA, which is tasked to monitor the flow of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, and household hazardous waste in the country, to remain dependent on companies they are supposed to regulate.  This represents a conflict of interest on the part of the FDA to the detriment of the public.”  ###