Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte specifically called on the Department of Health, the Interagency Task Force on the Management of Infectious Diseases and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 to report to Congress the status of projects ostensibly funded by the Congress under Bayanihan 2, such as those for the establishment of temporary treatment and monitoring facilities and the procurement of personal protective equipment, face masks and other medical supplies necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“These offices owe it to the public and to legislators to account for the funds that were set aside last year by the Congress under Bayanihan 2 to beef up the country’s healthcare capacity, especially now when the alarming surge in COVID-19 infections threatens to overwhelm both our medical frontliners and healthcare infrastructure,” he said.
“We urge these offices to report to the Congress the status of these funds, which is mandated under Bayanihan 2 or Republic Act 11494. With the extension of the validity of the available Bayanihan 2 appropriations under RA 11519, these offices should take the initiative to continue reporting on what have been accomplished thus far with the COVID-related budgetary outlays,” said Villafuerte who principally authored both the Bayanihan 1 (RA 11469) and Bayanihan 2 laws as well as RA 11519 extending the validity of Bayanihan 2 appropriations until June 30 this year.
Villafuerte says he wants to find out, in particular, the status of the fund releases and implementation of the P4.5-billion appropriations under Bayanihan 2 for the construction and maintenance of isolation facilities, including the billings of hotels, food and transportation used for the COVID-19 response and recovery program by the Office of Civil Defense.
Under the law’s regular appropriations, Villafuerte says, the government should also provide an update on the P13.5 billion allocated for health-related responses (e.g. continuous employment and additional human resource for health, DOH hospitals operations, special risk allowance for public and private healthcare workers, hazard pay, free life insurance and other benefits) and the P3 billion set aside for the procurement of face masks, PPE, shoe covers and other necessary medical supplies for health frontliners. Villafuerte also called on the DOH to report on its use of its P10-billion appropriation under Bayanihan 2 for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
“How many vaccines are we supposed to purchase with the P10-billion DOH allocation? How many TTMFs were set up so far? How many PPEs and other medical supplies did we procure? How much was the amount already released for the special risk allowance of our medical frontliners?” he said.
Under Bayanihan 2, regular appropriations account for P140 billion, with another P25 billion as standby funds.
“We would also like to find out if any funds have been cascaded to the LGUs for the construction of TTMFs. In the case of CamSur we were able to set up our own facility by converting a medical school into a TTMF using funds from the provincial government, but none from the national government using the appropriations under Bayanihan 2,” he said.
Villafuerte underscored the need for LGUs to establish additional TTMFs and other medical equipment necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19, especially with this latest surge in infections reported mostly in the National Capital Region and its adjacent provinces belonging to the so-called “NCR Plus” bubble.
Villafuerte said the government should complement its extended enhance community quarantine in the NCR and the neighboring provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal with a more aggressive strategy to detect, isolate and treat infected people while it awaits the arrival of the bulk of the ordered anti-virus jabs for its vaccine rollout plan.
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