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Drilon to DOH: Forego P11.7B proposed fund for contact tracing, spend prudently

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday renewed his call for the Department of Health (DOH) to be resourceful in its contact tracing efforts and do away with the projected P11.7 billion government spending for such an endeavor.

“In light of the budget deficit, it behooves all agencies to exercise prudent judgment in the use of public funds. Mag-ingat po tayo sa paggasta ng pera ng taumbayan lalo sa panahon ng krisis,” Drilon said in a statement.

“Given the increasing budget deficit, which is projected to reach P1.56 trillion or 8.1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product this year, this P11.7 billion should better be put to good use,” he added.

Drilon expressed support to Senate President Vicente Sotto III's position that the multi-billion budget for contact tracing must be diverted to the actual treatment of COVID-19 patients.

While acknowledging that contact tracing must not be neglected, he reiterated his proposal to mobilize around 400,000 barangay health workers and parent-leaders from the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) to expedite its implementation without hurting the war chest for COVID-19 response.

"Since they are already organized, they can be quickly mobilized as contact tracers," he said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, urged the DOH to adopt the best practices of the local government units for cheap yet effective solutions.

He cited for example Carmona, Cavite's contact tracing app which uses the mobile phone's GPS to track users’ location history. It also allows users to log their interactions with other people.

"In just a few days of implementation, the local government has already signed up 42,000 out of the municipality's 97,557 residents. For those without smartphones, the local government's barangay and police personnel can input the information for them," Lacson said.

He also mentioned Baguio City's contact tracing program which maximized a geographical information system (GIS) platform to locate areas where possible virus carriers live.

"With these technologies, we can potentially save P11.7 billion being asked by the Department of Health for contact tracers. I share Senate President Vicente Sotto III's sentiment that there are more practical uses for the amount," Lacson said, noting that the budget could be used for livelihood interventions instead.

The DOH earlier said it needs 95,000 more contact tracers, on top of the existing 38,000, to meet the World Health Organization's recommended ratio of one tracer in every 800 people.

The department also said it needs around P11.7 billion to hire these workforce for three months.—AOL, GMA News