House scrutinizes 2018 DOH budget for drug rehab centers & fight vs. viruses

The House committee on appropriations chaired by Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles (1st, District, Davao City) on Monday scrutinized the proposed budget of the Department of Health (DOH) for next year in the amount of P103.6 billion, representing a nine percent increase from this year's funding of P95.27 billion.

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial led DOH officials in defending the agency's proposed budget, with questions initially centering on the budgets for drug rehabilitation centers and the fight against viruses.

Nograles queried Ubial about the construction of drug rehabilitation centers which were funded under the 2017 national budget.

Nograles also asked for an inventory of the drug rehabilitation facilities that were donated by the private sector.

Ubial explained that there are five regional drug treatment and rehabilitation centers being constructed, namely, in Isabela, which has recently been inaugurated; Mountain Province; Palawan; Zamboanga; and Taguig.

She said there are also nine mega drug rehabilitation facilities being built in several parts of the country, courtesy of donations from various organizations and individuals.

They are located in Davao City, Taguig, Cavite, Agusan del Sur, Saranggani, Bohol, Bukidnon, and Bataan, Ubial said.

The mega drug rehabilitation facility in Nueva Ecija was completed in November 2016 and has graduated 53 patients.

Nograles also cited the concern raised by President Rodrigo Duterte on the slow procurement of equipment for the AFP Medical Center, the soldiers' hospital. He said the President even directed the DOH to expedite the procurement.

Ubial clarified that the upgrading and enhancement of the AFP Medical Center is being handled by the Department of National Defense (DND) as it is under the said department.

She said the DOH has closely coordinated with the armed forces, which is under the DND, to help in fast-tracking the process and has donated various equipments to selected AFP hospitals.

Rep. Harry Roque (Party-list, KABAYAN) asked Ubial to explain how the P500 million budget in the fight against Zika virus was spent, lamenting that she declared last year that the virus is not endemic in the Philippines, only to be proven wrong later on.

Roque also decried that the DOH's information posters last year in the fight against the Zika virus became useless as it was already endemic in the country at the time.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez (3rd District, Quezon) raised concern over reports of vaccines getting expired in the DOH facilities.

Suarez, however, said he would take Ubial's word that there are no expired vaccines in the DOH.

Rep. Rosanna Vergara (3rd District, Nueva Ecija) called the attention of the DOH to also focus in the fight against HIV-AIDS and other infectious diseases, as the Philippines has one of the fastest growing HIV-AIDS cases in Asia.

Source: House of Representatives