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Document snags delay P63B in COVID benefits

IMAGE COURTESY OF ST. LUKE’S MEDICAL CENTER.

THE Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said the release of P63 billion worth of allowances for pandemic frontliners is awaiting the fulfilment of documentary requirements by the Department of Health (DoH).

“We cannot release funding if there are no documentary requirements given to us,” Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman said in a television interview with CNN Philippines on Thursday.

The DBM said that, on June 8, it requested that the DoH address deficiencies in the documentation accompanying its request to release funds for the One COVID-19 Allowance (OCA), for which all pandemic frontliners are eligible.

“Essentially, we requested them to substantiate their request by sending us the budget breakdown, segregation, actual names of claimants, and other relevant documents for us to clearly determine the universe of eligible beneficiaries,” the DBM said in a statement on Thursday.

Despite subsequent meetings between the two departments, the DoH was unable to fully comply as of July 15.

“They were only able to address and substantiate documents that are related to unpaid COVID-19 sickness and death claims for fiscal year 2020 and 2021 worth P570 million, which enabled us to release the same amount in August,” the DBM said.

On Wednesday, Officer-in-Charge Health Secretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said talks with the DBM are ongoing, adding that the DoH has received a request from the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) for the release of its OCA.

“For the longest time since these benefits were mandated… we have been able to provide them to the PGH. What happened is that our MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) from the National Government through DoH has been used up and we have nothing more to issue,” Ms. Vergeire said.

“We would like to inform the PGH and other hospitals that we are not choosing any hospital to give a certain budget. When we have a budget… we release it to them. It just happened that now we have long been requesting for this budget from the DBM and up until now we had not been approved for release.”

Ms. Pangandaman said that the DBM reminded the DoH last week of the pending items for submission.

In February, the DBM released P7.92 billion to the DoH for the OCA of pandemic frontliners, as authorized by Republic Act No. 11712 or the Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances for Health Care Workers Act, signed in April by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

“As long as the DoH can address the deficiencies in the documentary requirements, DBM will immediately process the request to release funds, based on available budget,” the DBM said. — Diego Gabriel C. Robles

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