By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — In his visit to Siargao Island on July 3, Senator Christopher “Bong”
Go attended the launch of the country’s 125th Malasakit Center. He
cited that this is a big step towards improving access to public
health services in far-flung communities.
The newest Malasakit center was established at the Siargao District
Hospital, which has recently been upgraded and converted into the
Siargao Island Medical Center with the enactment of a law that Go
sponsored in the Senate last year.
“Sinabi ko talaga na pupunta ako dito sa Dapa (town) para mabuksan at
magamit na ng mga pasyente, lalo na ng mga nangangailangan ng tulong,
ang Malasakit Center na ito,” Go began in his remarks.
The new Malasakit Center is the second in the province and third in
the Caraga region, after the Caraga Regional Hospital in Surigao City
and Butuan Medical Center in Butuan City, Surigao del Sur.
In his message, the Senator lamented that many Filipino patients do
not have health insurance coverage and are often left to pay for their
medical bills. With the launching, Go said that this will help
patients get the treatments and medications they need without worrying
about the costs since medical assistance from the government will be
conveniently available for them in the Malasakit Centers to cover for
their hospital and medical-related bills.
The Malasakit Center brings together under its roof the medical
assistance programs offered by the Department of Health, Department of
Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Health Insurance
Corporation, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
“Lapitan niyo lang ang Malasakit Center at tutulungan kayo ng mga
ahensya para wala na kayong babayaran sa ospital. Kung may balanseng
naiwan, may pondong iniwan din si Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte para kung
kaya ay maging ‘zero balance’ ang billing niyo. Kung kailangan niyo ng
tulong, gaya ng pamasahe, pwede kayong lumapit sa DSWD rin dito,”
The Malasakit Centers program was institutionalized under Republic Act
No. 11463, also known as the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019. Go
principally authored and sponsored the bill in the Senate prior to
President Rodrigo Duterte signing it into law in December 2019.
“So far, we have assisted around two million … wala itong pinipili na
pasyente. Para ito sa mga Pilipino lalo na sa mga poor at indigent
patients,” continued Go.
“Sa mga helpless, hopeless at walang matakbuhan, dito kayo pumunta sa
Malasakit Center dahil para ito sa inyo. Kapag hindi kayo tinulungan,
sabihin niyo ‘hoy, Pilipino ako. Karapatan ko ito’,” he added,
stressing that the Malasakit Centers are for all Filipinos.
As Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Go vowed to work together
with local leaders to improve public health services in the island. In
2020, Go sponsored a bill which later became Republic Act No. 11500.
The law, which Rep. Bingo Matugas authored, sought to upgrade the
capabilities of the Siargao District Hospital and rename it into the
Siargao Island Medical Center. This also increases the hospital’s bed
capacity from 50 to 100 beds and places it under the supervision of
the DOH. It also directs the upgrading of its professional healthcare
services and facilities and authorizes the increase of its medical
“Dumaan ako sa butas ng karayom para ipaglaban ang mga batas para
i-upgrade ang mga pampublikong ospital natin dahil alam ko ang mga
mahihirap ang makikinabang dito. Minsan may mga ospital na umaabot ng
400% ang occupancy rate. Sa isang kama, may apat na pasyente. Paano
sila gagaling kung ganyan ang sitwasyon?” asked Go.
“Hindi ako ‘yung klase na pulitiko na mangangako ng hindi ko kaya
gawin. Pero makakaasa kayo na magseserbisyo ako sa abot ng aking
makakaya. Sa mga doctors, nurses at iba pang frontliners dito, ‘wag
kayong mag-alala dahil ipaglalaban ko kayo,” he reiterated.
The Senator’s team handed out meals, food packs, vitamins, masks, and
face shields to a total of 115 frontline health workers after the
ceremony. Selected beneficiaries were given bicycles while others
received pairs of shoes. Some also received computer tablets for their
The DSWD also provided qualified rank-and-file hospital employees with
financial assistance in a separate distribution. Similar aid was
likewise extended to 25 indigent patients.
“Kung kailangan niyo ng tulong para magpagamot sa Maynila …hindi niyo
na kailangan mag-alala sa gastusin. Gagawin namin ang lahat maka-salba
ng buhay. Tutulungan namin kayo, lalo na ang mga sa far-flung areas,
gaya ng Siargao Island, kung saan nakahiwalay ang lugar at mahirap
mag-avail ng medical services,” said Go.
Meanwhile, Go encouraged residents to get vaccinated in accordance
with the national vaccine program guidelines. He assured local leaders
that he will help coordinate with the national government so that they
would be able to get sufficient vaccines for their constituents.
Among those present during the activity were Secretary Michael Dino of
the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, Presidential
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, 1st District Rep. Matugas,
Governor Francisco T. Matugas, Mayor Elizabeth Matugas, Chief of
Hospital Dr. Ester Tan, and other local officials
Also present were Board Members Constantino Navarro IV, Nathaniel
Plaza, Edgar Andanar, Guillermo Boncaros, and Julecs Sunico; Burgos
Mayor Emmanuel Arcena, Del Carmen Mayor Proserfina Coro, General Luna
Mayor Cecilia Rusillon, Pilar Mayor Liza Resurreccion, San Benito
Mayor Ma. Gina Menil, San Isidro Mayor Lamberto Domiños, Sta. Monica
Mayor Fernando Dolar, and Socorro Mayor Felizardo Galanida, among
To boost economic opportunities in the island, Go supported the
funding for the construction of a diversion road from Dapa Port to
Barangay 13 and flood control embankment in Boulevard Area in
Barangays 2 and Barangay 6. He also supported efforts for the
concreting of roads, rehabilitation of recreational facilities,
construction of multi-purpose buildings, improvement of bridges, and
other infrastructure projects in Siargao Island.
After the launch, Go and his team then proceeded to the Dinakpan Gym
in Del Carmen where they distributed aid to farmers and fisherfolk.
More forms of aid were provided through the government’s Aid and
Humanitarian Operations Nationwide (AHON) Convergence Program for
As Go traversed the island, he also interacted with residents,
listened to their concerns, and extended his help based on their
needs. He provided tablets to some of the children to help them pursue
their schooling amid the ongoing pandemic. (ai/mtvn)