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PNoy to push for less controversial health programs in last half of his term


After pushing for the reproductive health (RH) and the sin tax reform bills last year, President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday said he will focus on less controversial health programs in his last three years in office.

In a speech during the Department of Health's (DOH) 115th anniversary celebration, Aquino said his administration is determined to attain its goal of universal healthcare for all Filipinos by 2016.

"Wala pa rin pong ibang susi para sa malusog na ekonomiya kundi ang pagkakaroon ng malusog na sambayanan. Kaya naman, simula nang tayo’y manungkulan, walang patid nating inaangat ang budget ng DOH," he said during the event at the DOH head office in Manila.

"Last year mayroon tayong Sin Tax, mayroon tayong Responsible Parenthood, ngayon naman ho ay pakikiugnayan ng mas hindi masalimuot ang ating pakay," he added.

Last year, Aquino was able to push for the passage of the controversial reproductive health bill through his allies in Congress despite opposition from the Roman Catholic Church. The legislation, however, is still facing legal questions before the Supreme Court.

Aquino also managed to enact a law that imposes higher taxes on cigarettes and alcohol products in the face of strong lobbying from manufacturers of these products in the country against the legislation.

Enhanced health facilities
 
Aquino, in his speech, said his government was able to enroll some 20 million more Filipinos to the national health insurance program during his first three years in office.

He also boasted of his administration's efforts to expand benefit packages for Filipinos suffering from heart diseases, aside from those with "catastrophic diseases" such as breast cancer, prostate cancer and acute leukemia.

The president likewise pledged to build more new health facilities in far-flung regions of the country, and the rehabilitate old hospitals.

"Hindi tayo titigil hangga’t may mga kababayan pa rin tayong ni hindi nakakakita ng espesyalista sa tanang-buhay nila. Kaya naman sa huling dalawang taon ng ating administrasyon—binawasan ho ako ng isang taon, siguro ‘yong writer ko po ay gusto na ring lumipat ng trabaho—target nating i-upgrade at gawing mas moderno ang 7,325 na mga ospital, klinika, at pagamutan," he said.

DOH Secretary Enrique Ona, meanwhile, said his department will propose a law that will facilitate the efficient delivery of health services to distant towns in the country.

"Kami ay nahirapan nang husto na ipaabot sa ating local health units 'yung tulong ng DOH kasi devolved ang ating health system down to the towns. Sabi namin, pag-aralan on how we can improve the devolution of healthcare," he said in an interview after the event.

He likewise said he wants a legislation that will "improve the governance" of public hospitals under the DOH.

Privatization or partnership?

Outside the event's venue, however, several groups protested the supposed lack of substantial health reforms under Aquino's presidency.

The protesters, led by the Alliance of Health Workers, particularly criticized the planned "privatization" of some government hospitals.

Ona said the government is only entering into a "partnership" with the private sector to modernize public hospitals in the face of limited government funds.

"Siguro ganoon naman talaga. Hindi natin mako-convince lahat. Siguro i-observe na lang nila kung ano ang mangyayari. Give us a chance kasi iyon ang ating opportunity to include the private sector," he said. — KBK, GMA News
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