Aiding the hopeless, helpless

In over 20 years of working as a public servant, I have come to treasure the time I get to spend personally talking to the people we are mandated to serve, listening to their worries, finding solutions to their problems, and leaving a smile on their faces in their times of struggle and grief.

Every time I visit some of the most vulnerable communities across our country, I always feel humbled to be able to serve our fellow Filipinos. At the same time, I get constantly reminded of just how crucial it is for our government to provide more reliable support and adequate social services to enable our people, especially the hopeless and the helpless, to eventually achieve a safer and more comfortable life.

That is why as much as I can, I make sure to schedule several relief operations in various provinces that I could personally lead to also learn firsthand the most pressing challenges that our people are facing amid these unprecedented times.

On 4 October, I visited the province of Misamis Oriental and extended aid to 301 existing and aspiring small business owners from El Salvador City and from the towns of Opol, Gitagum, Libertad, Initao, Naawan, Manticao, Lugait, Laguindingan, Tagoloan, Jasaan and Claveria. Our micro, small and medium enterprises have always been the backbone of our economy. I hope we can help these enterprises recoup their losses due to the pandemic and create new jobs and opportunities for our people.

Later that day, I went straight to Cagayan de Oro City with my team and brought grocery packs, masks, vitamins meals and shirts to 381 families who were affected by separate fire incidents in the city.

We also provided select individuals with bicycles, cellular phones, shoes, and watches, as well as balls for volleyball and basketball to encourage them to get into sports and stay away from illegal drugs or other vices.

Meanwhile, I also witnessed virtually and extended my gratitude during the groundbreaking of another Super Health Center, this time in Alangalang, Leyte.

The following day, I attended the groundbreaking ceremony of yet another Super Health Center, this time in Glan, Sarangani before celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day and personally spearheading a relief activity for 500 of the town’s struggling residents.

A Super Health Center is a medium version of a polyclinic and a bigger version of a rural health unit. It offers health services including database management, out-patient, birthing, isolation, diagnostic (laboratory: x-ray and ultrasound), pharmacy and ambulatory surgical unit. Other available services are eye, ear, nose and throat service; oncology centers; physical therapy and rehabilitation center; and telemedicine, where remote diagnosis and treatment of patients will be done.

As Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and vice chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, I earlier pushed for the allocation of funds for the construction of the initial 307 Super Health Centers nationwide this year that will be strategically located in rural areas to ensure that the neediest sectors have access to medical services.

We will do our best to ensure more Super Health Centers are built in the coming year in order to bring quality health care closer to our communities in need. Filipinos, especially in far-flung areas, need health facilities such as these that can cater to their emergency needs and lessen the need for them to travel all the way to the cities just to get adequate medical attention.

Apart from physical health, mental health is just as important. We also need increased government intervention, particularly in the form of psychological assistance, especially for many Filipinos who have fallen into depression after losing both their livelihood and loved ones to the pandemic.

I earlier supported the funding for the government’s mental health programs in previous years and will continue to do so as we welcome the increased budget allocation for 2023. We already have Republic Act 11036 or the Philippine Mental Health Act signed by former President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018. Now we ought to make sure that there is always sufficient attention and adequate funding available to carry out these mental health initiatives.

As the fight against Covid-19 continues, I likewise urge Filipinos not to be complacent and continue to wear face masks as added protection. Also important is to further ramp up our vaccination efforts, especially on increasing booster uptake, for the country to sooner return to normalcy.

Meanwhile, on 7 October, I visited North Cotabato to personally join the celebration of the 68th Founding Anniversary of the town of Makilala and Sinab’badan Festival. After this, I spearheaded a relief effort for 750 indigents in Makilala. On the same day, I conducted a site inspection of the Super Health Center in Arakan and joined the celebration of Teachers’ Day to honor the sacrifices of our country’s educators. I then provided aid to 500 struggling residents there.

While all these activities were happening, my office simultaneously mounted a series of relief operations across the country. We provided aid to fire victims including 69 families in Paco, Manila; 24 residents in Brgy. Kamuning, Quezon City; two families from Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat; and two more families in Liloan, Cebu.

We also aided 600 struggling residents from San Pablo City, Laguna; 333 from Brgy. San Isidro, Tarlac City; 200 from Sibalom, Antique; 201 from Masantol, Pampanga; and 401 residents from Cabanatuan City.

Micro-entrepreneurs continue to receive our support. In Ilocos Sur, 311 small business owners were aided from Vigan City and Narvacan; and 303 more from Sta. Maria and Sta Cruz. There were also 600 beneficiaries from Iloilo City.

My team, likewise, visited Cagayan to help MSMEs there, including 83 in Penablanca; 83 in Santa Teresita; 75 in Camalaniugan; 75 in Gonzaga; 58 in Rizal; Amulung; and 27 more in Claveria. We also did not neglect 549 beneficiaries from Bagui, Pasuquin, Bacarra and Laoag City in Ilocos Norte; 400 in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte; and 71 in Don Carlos, Bukidnon.

We must not let up on our campaign against corruption, illegal drugs, and criminality, as well as poverty and hunger, that former president Duterte has put utmost focus on. We have seen how his efforts have made many of our people feel secure, exemplified by the high public trust rating of 90 percent received by FPRRD after he stepped down from office, based on the latest Pulse Asia survey.

We might not be able to help all of our struggling Filipinos all at once but as we continue to provide aid to our people in need, little by little, we can change more lives and even save more lives. If we all extend a helping hand to our fellows in need, a safer and more comfortable life may soon become a reality for all.

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