By Daine Mariel Chua

Senator Sonny Angara leaped over uncertainty on available funds after assurance of ₱141.2 billion allocations to the COVID-19 response team in the 2023 national budget, establishing certain benefits for pandemic workers.

Photo courtesy of Manila Bulletin and Amazetify

In a Congress discussion on November 25, Angara ensured funding under Republic Act No. 11712, or the Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances for Health Care Workers Act, which will be applied retroactively in sustaining compensation to health workers from July 1, 2021.

“The law that was passed (this) year made the payment of the benefits retroactive so the government was in arrears at that point and there was no funding in the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA),” Angara, who also serves as the Senate Committee on Finance chairman, said. 

Despite arrears, Angara assured that the 2023 national budget allotted ₱141.2 billion for the pandemic benefits, with ₱24.96 billion already funded under the Department of Health (DOH) and ₱52.96 billion under unprogrammed funds. 

The senator pointed out the ‘insufficiency’ when asked about the remaining unfunded ₱63.27 billion.

However, he cleared that the said amounts were different from the allocated funds in 2022 for the same purpose amounting to ₱51 billion.

On the same day, the senator also showed confidence in the signing of the 2023 national budget by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. before Christmas, guaranteeing the current amount allocated for COVID-19 workers in the budget.

Moreover, the said law was signed on April 27 this year, which expanded the coverage of health emergency allowance to healthcare and non-healthcare workers that served in response to the COVID-19 situation.

Angara reported 805,863 currently eligible workers for the benefits provided since the retroactive application of the measures of the act.

This is in response to current issues raised during the discussion as senators sought pay hikes and pandemic benefits for health workers. 

Edited by Nehmia Elyxa Relano