SWP to Senate: WANT IMPROVED HEALTH CARE? Ensure sustainable funding for UHC | SWP Press Release 18 Jan 2019
SOCIALWATCH PHILS·WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 23, 2019
Social Watch Philippines (SWP), urges Senators to ensure sustainable financing of Universal Health Care (UHC) if it is to guarantee improved health services for all Filipinos.
The UHC bill, now awaiting the signing of the President, was certified as urgent by the Palace in October last year and passed the Bicameral Conference Committee (Bicam) in November.
The UHC Bill will require PHP 257 billion for the first year of implementation alone, according to the Department of Health (DOH). This is a huge reform which will need sustained long-term funding support as the health system transitions and expands services. The 10-year costing projection of the Department of Health shows that the implementation of the bill will require annual increased financing.
SWP believes that Senators who asked questions on the Department of Health budget last Tuesday need to consider the sustainability of the UHC program and pass the bill that promotes a significant increase in tobacco excise tax.
Last week, during the Cabinet meeting, the President agreed to certify as urgent Senator Manny Pacquiao’s Senate Bill No. 1599, raising tobacco tax to P60/pack from the current rate of P35/pack.
While SWP lauds the President’s statement and Senator Pacquiao’s efforts, it maintains its support and campaign for the passage of tobacco tax raised to the maximum level. Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito’s version of the tobacco excise tax increase, Senate Bill No. 1605 proposes the highest rate at P90/pack.
“If the Senate is really serious about implementing a UHC that will be meaningful to Filipinos, it needs to think long-term. Often, the question when Congress pass laws like this is, "san kukunin ang pera?" as there are so many unfunded laws. There is a low-lying fruit that can already be claimed in order to generate additional and much-needed revenues for UHC, namely, SB 1605” said Dr. Maria Victoria Raquiza, SWP co-convenor.
Estimates done by health advocates show that Senator Ejercito’s Bill will prevent two million more new generation of smokers by the end of President Duterte’s term. The higher incremental revenues that this rate can generate can also help boost the earmarked funds for health and make the much-awaited UHC happen.
SWP believes that the Senate, particularly the Office of Senator Sonny Angara, the chair of
Senate Committee on Ways and Means, should immediately hold public hearings and pass a pro-health tobacco tax bill as compelling factors are already in place: the President’s public announcement on certification of tobacco tax bill as urgent, clear support from key national government agencies, and the passage of the House version of the bill.
The bill has been dormant in the hands of Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sonny Angara for more than one year despite clamor from civil society and government agencies. This seeming contradiction prompted community leaders to be critical of Senator Angara’s co-authorship of UHC and his “Alagang Angara” campaign program.
“Sana naman mapanindigan ni Senator Angara ang kanyang sinasabing “Alagang Angara” na kampanya. Paano siya makakapag-alaga ng mamamayan kung hinahayaan niya ang salot na yosi na sirain ang kalusugan at buhay ng mga Pilipino at hindi sinisigurong mapopondohan ‘to?” said AKTIB National Coordinator Sara Salvador.
Meanwhile, during the Senate plenary deliberations on Wednesday, Senator Miguel Zubiri said sessions starting on Monday, January 21 will start at 2:00pm to give way for Senators who will hold committee hearings. This means that procedurally, Senator Angara can already hold the hearing immediately.
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