Friday, December 23, 2016

Hontiveros Lauds 2017 Budget with Historic Debt Audit Provision, Health Reforms

Wazzup Pilipinas!

"A historic first in the history of the Philippine budget system."

This is how Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros described the passage of the 2017 national government budget that contains a special provision mandating Congress to conduct a comprehensive audit of the country's debt.

The said provision tasked the Congressional Oversight Committee on Overseas Development Assistance to conduct a debt audit to determine the legitimacy of a list of loan agreements challenged as illegitimate. The said debt audit will be conducted in the 2017 fiscal year.

Hontiveros, who introduced the said general provision, said that the process of a debt audit is an important policy tool to unburden the Filipino people from paying onerous and illegitimate debts and beef up funding for social service spending.

"This is truly a historic first. With this provision, we commit to diligently scrutinize the country’s debts if they are indeed in accordance with the principles on promoting responsible sovereign lending and borrowing by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and repudiate the illegitimate part of our overall debt," Hontiveros said.

"I would like to commend the Senate Finance Committee chaired by Senator Loren Legarda, my fellow senators, the Executive branch and the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) for supporting the inclusion of this provision in our national budget," Hontiveros added.

Hontiveros, however, reminded the public that there remains a lot to be done to fully reform the government's budget process. She particularly noted the issues on savings, augmentation, impoundment and budget control that must be fully addressed to achieve the desirable balance between fiscal flexibility and accountability.

The FDC reported that P 3.78 Billion in the 2016 national government budget went to interest and principal payments in connection with a number of questionable loan-funded projects, including: the Power Sector Development Program, Sixth Road (Tullahan), Pampanga Development Flood Control, Bohol Irrigation II, and Angat Water Supply Optimization.

"Catalyst for universal healthcare"

Meanwhile, Hontiveros, who is Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, welcomed the P3 billion infused in the 2017 budget of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) covering all Filipinos. She called this the "great catalyst" to achieve universal health care in the Philippines.

DoH hospitals as "centers of wellness"

The senator also commended the government for accepting a special provision she introduced in the 2017 budget to make all Department of Health (DoH) hospitals as centers of wellness by mandating that at least 5% of their retained income be used for preventive and promotive health, including the provision of family planning services.

Climate change-resilient hospitals

Hontiveros, with the help of Legarda, also added a special provision in the DOH budget to ensure that all health facilities to be constructed are "climate change-resilient."

“There are more funds now available to address the health care shortages and facility upgrades to meet our goal of universal healthcare. We must see healthcare as a viable investment. A healthy population is the backbone of a strong and progressive country," Hontiveros ended.

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