It will be up to the Department of Health (DOH) to decide whether a higher budget for 2021 is needed to improve its capacity to fight diseases such as the novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (nCoV-ARD), Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.
Nograles made this statement following concerns raised by Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas that the 50 percent cut in the budget allocation for epidemiology and disease surveillance would dampen the DOH’s capability to prevent future outbreaks from happening.
“Ayaw ko pangunahan ang (I don’t want to pre-empt the) DOH. They’re the ones who are properly informed about their budgetary needs,” Nograles said in a Pandesal Forum in Kamuning, Quezon City.
“Because it is budget call right now for 2021, I leave it up to the DOH to write up their proposed budget for 2021, complete tier 1 and tier 2,” he added.
Nograles expressed confidence that the DOH would take into consideration epidemiology and disease surveillance when it submits its proposed budget for next year.
“Obviously, if we need to give them more funds, we should,” he said.
The proposed budget for the DOH was reduced from PHP97.65 billion in 2019 to PHP 88.26 billion this year.
The PHP 10-billion cut in the DOH was met with strong public criticism amid “a string of epidemics” affecting the country last year such as the resurgence of the polio virus and dengue outbreaks in various regions.
On Monday, Quezon 4th district Rep. Angelina Tan proposed the passage of a PHP1 billion supplemental budget to allow the DOH to strengthen the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).
House Committee on Appropriations Chairman and Davao City 3rd district Rep. Isidro Ungab vowed to immediately act on the proposed supplemental budget to help fight the spread of nCoV-ARD in the country.
Nograles, a former lawmaker, said the request for a supplemental budget will have to undergo proper budget processes.
“If we need additional budget somehow, then saka na tayo mag trigger ng (that’s when we trigger) mechanisms for a supplemental budget. Let’s work through a process,” Nograles said.
There are two confirmed cases of nCoV-ARD in the country, according to the DOH.
Meanwhile, the number of persons under investigation (PUIs) for possible infection has risen to 105. (PNA)