Prioritizing inclusive healthcare for Filipinos

Providing inclusive healthcare for all Filipinos should always remain a priority. As chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health, my legislative agenda is to ensure that those with less in life are given more benefits and attention from the government, especially regarding healthcare.

My constant appeal to health officials is to ensure all Filipinos in need get medical care regardless of their geographic and economic situation. This is precisely the sentiment I wanted to impart when the Commission on Appointments took up the appointment of Department of Health Secretary Teodoro “Ted” Herbosa. The health department has my full support, so I am happy to note that Secretary Herbosa committed his support for the continuing implementation of the Malasakit Centers program and other key public health initiatives.

As principal sponsor and author of Republic Act No. 11463 or the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019, it is fulfilling to know that the program is instrumental in providing medical assistance to over seven million indigent Filipinos through the 159 currently operational Malasakit Centers nationwide.

Prioritizing the establishment of Super Health Centers in strategic areas in the country will also help make healthcare more inclusive for Filipinos. With the support of my colleagues in both houses of Congress, we are looking at more than 600 Super Health Centers to be built nationwide. These centers will provide primary healthcare and medical consultations, and help promote early detection of illnesses, which will decongest hospitals in the long term.

My advocacy for inclusive healthcare has been strengthened with the enactment of RA 11959, or the Regional Specialty Centers Act. This newly enacted law, which I principally sponsored as one of the authors, will establish specialized medical centers within existing DOH regional hospitals. It will help bring specialized medical services closer to every region and will, in effect, make the health department’s services more inclusive. Sufficient funds must be allocated for the Regional Specialty Centers for its effective implementation in the coming years.

While we are doing everything to make healthcare more accessible to Filipinos, let us not forget our healthcare workers. I am appealing to DOH and our finance managers to make sure that the benefits due to our healthcare workers in accordance with prevailing laws are released efficiently and without further delays.

Moreover, my regular engagement with communities in need continues to be part of my advocacy to promote inclusivity so that those with less can still get the best public services they need and deserve.

On 1 October, we had the privilege of attending the “Konsyerto sa Palasyo para sa Mahal nating mga Guro,” a special concert dedicated to our esteemed educators, held within the Malacañang Palace. During the event, we were deeply moved by the performances that showcased the country’s rich cultural heritage while paying tribute to our teachers’ tireless efforts and sacrifices.

On 29 September, along with former president Rodrigo Duterte, we witnessed the Duterte Cup 2023 Awarding Ceremony and the 54th Founding Anniversary of Lex Talionis in Dasmariñas City, Cavite. I am also pleased to announce the groundbreaking ceremony for the upcoming Super Health Center in Inopacan, Leyte, on the same day.

We at the Senate, led by Senate President Migz Zubiri, participated in the 50th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Hungary and the Philippines in Taguig City on 28 September. We were also invited as the guest of honor and speaker at the 3rd National Convention of the Philippine Society of Mechanical Engineers Inc., held at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City. The groundbreaking ceremony for another Super Health Center in Tanauan, Leyte, was also conducted.

On 27 September, we were invited as guest speaker and provided inspiration at the 34th commencement exercises at Tarlac State University in Tarlac City together with Gov. Susan Yap, Mayor Cristy Angeles, and other officials. We went straight to Talugtug, Nueva Ecija, and personally led the distribution of aid to 1,000 underprivileged residents, in partnership with the office of Cong. GP Padiernos and GP Partylist.

Construction began on Super Health Centers in the towns of Talakag and Kalilangan in Bukidnon on 26 September, which we supported to bring medical services closer to their communities.

My office has also reached various parts of the country to assist our fellow Filipinos in need. We have helped victims of fires, such as 653 in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi; 28 in Tacloban City, Leyte; 13 in General Santos City; five in Bacolod City; and one in Palo, Leyte. We also assisted 1,000 underprivileged residents of Lupao, Nueva Ecija.

We also aided 500 recovering Typhoon Egay victims in Barlig, Mountain Province, and 657 female detainees at Camp Karingal, Quezon City.

In Caloocan City, 44 beneficiaries of emergency housing assistance from the National Housing Authority received additional help from us. We have been continuously supporting this program so that fire victims can purchase housing materials like nails and corrugated iron sheets. We also assisted 233 displaced workers in Siniloan, Laguna, and 426 in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon, in partnership with DOLE and their respective local leaders.

As Chair of the Senate Committee on Sports, I call upon every Filipino to rally behind our athletes competing in the Hangzhou Asian Games from 23 September to 8 October. Our athletes have trained tirelessly, sacrificing time, effort, and personal comforts to represent our nation on this grand stage. They carry not just their personal ambitions but the pride and hopes of an entire country. Let us show them that they are not alone in this journey.

As your public servant, I assure fellow Filipinos that I will continue to push for inclusive public service delivery, particularly in healthcare and especially for the poor, to the best of my abilities in pursuit of social justice and development for all.

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