MANILA – A measure proposing the use of Malampaya funds as an additional source of funding to improve the quality of public healthcare, particularly health infrastructure, has been filed at the House of Representatives.
1-PACMAN party-list Reps. Eric Pineda and Mikee Romero, and Manila Teachers party-list Rep. Virgilio Lacson have filed House Bill 7800, or the proposed Public Health Infrastructure Act, which seeks to amend Presidential Decree 910, to enable Congress to allot a portion of the Malampaya funds to finance public health infrastructure projects.
During a virtual Kapihan ng Samahang Plaridel forum on Wednesday, Lacson stressed the need to provide financial support to strengthen the country’s healthcare system amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We recognize the current need to develop a resilient healthcare system. This pandemic should be a lesson learned to prioritize healthcare,” Lacson said.
Lacson said untapped funds from the Malampaya gas field can be a “source for healthcare” and assist many other Filipinos who are struggling with medical conditions.
Pineda, during the same forum, pointed out several lapses in the local health infrastructure, specifically how hospitals have been unable to keep up with global health best practices.
Pineda also noted that government debt has neared PHP9 trillion as of June, primarily due to pandemic-related loans.
“We have to look for alternative funds, not from loans or the private sector. We know that Malampaya earns PHP1 billion for the government annually. Right now, the best way to use these funds is to improve healthcare facilities and support healthcare workers. While there’s no vaccine, we must act immediately,” Pineda said.
Pineda said the Malampaya gas project proves the immense benefits of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in funding the nation’s development.
“That’s why projects like Malampaya are very important, while other developments take a back seat because of the pandemic. We need to save our countrymen first and have enough healthcare facilities for the infected. Developing more sources for natural gas can help,” Pineda said.
Lacson said the continuity of the Malampaya project, which nears its end in 2023, is crucial to help in the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
“Technology in exploration has developed over the years, and Malampaya could be extended depending on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) decision. If so, then it would be a great help to our fight against the pandemic and can help develop a good health system,” Lacson said.
Lacson said they are pushing for the immediate approval of the bill.
Department of Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire, for her part, said the bill can increase the budget to put up more healthcare facilities, especially in provincial regions that have limited hospitals and testing laboratories.
“We appreciate that this bill looks at our needs in the health sector and how to source funds to put up more infrastructure — not just in Metro Manila but other regions too. Hopefully, it will be passed so we can continue improving our capacity and be better prepared for future health challenges,” Vergeire said. (PNA)