Secure economy, food, front-liners to achieve good health amid Covid: Pangilinan

August 2, 2021

AS THE country deals with the more infectious Covid Delta variant, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan takes the long and comprehensive view for Filipinos to achieve good health by focusing on the economy and access to food, and supporting front-liners.

“Right now, sira ang delivery systems ng food at health services. Walang kita pangtustos sa pagkain o gamot. Given these, achieving good health for Filipinos seems pretty straightforward: Secure our economy. Secure our food producers. Secure our health workers,” Pangilinan said.

Speaking at an online symposium as part of the 35th anniversary of the St. Luke’s Medical Center, the farmer-senator describes the current health situation of Filipinos thus:

“Our poorest of the poor have become even poorer to the point that they have to choose between eating or taking medicines — both of which they need to survive and thrive.”

Fight hunger, secure farmers

As hunger remains foremost in the minds of parents, Pangilinan said securing food producers would lower the cost of food.

He said the Sagip Saka Act of 2019, which seeks to ease the flow of food from producer to consumer, will effectively lower food prices.

The law enables national agencies and local government units to purchase agricultural products directly from accredited cooperatives and associations without the need for lengthy traditional procurement.

Support MSMEs, buy Filipino

Earlier lockdowns have cost 3.7 million Filipinos jobs in May 2021 and the shutdown of 73.1% of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), Pangilinan pointed out.

To kickstart the economy, the senator cited his earlier privilege speech with the following proposed solutions: activating the “buy pinoy buy local” campaign to generate jobs, provide cash assistance to MSMEs, and ease credit requirements to help restart businesses.

“Nasa emergency situation tayo. Economic opportunities mean access to sources of income. Social services mean access to government assistance and other amelioration programs that would make economic opportunities more accessible in times of need,” he said.

Securing health workers

Strategically, Pangilinan said, health gaps exposed by the pandemic must be filled. These are: modernizing facilities, increasing hospital beds, proper support and compensation for frontline health workers, contact tracing, and testing.

For the senator, much like securing food means securing farmers, securing health also means securing front-liners.

This includes passing relevant laws needed to compensate health workers such as the Republic Act 11509 or the Medical Scholarship Act that intends to incentivize and institutionalize the government’s Doctors to the Barrios program signed December 2020.

Pending at the Senate are the Comprehensive Nursing Law of 2019 and the amendments to the 30-year-old Magna Carta for Public Health Workers. Both aim to increase the salary and other compensation of our frontline health workers.

“We hope to repay our front-liners by giving them the compensation and recognition that they deserve. We hope to give them the incentive to stay,” Pangilinan said.

“As I’ve seen in the past two years, the state of the nation’s health depends, to a large extent, on the quality of public leadership in battling the most severe health and economic crisis facing the nation today,” he said.

As of August 1, the Philippines has a total of 1,597,689 Covid cases, with daily cases reported to be over 8,000 for the third straight day.

In preparation for the Covid Delta variant, the National Capital Region has been placed under General Community Quarantine with heightened and additional restrictions from July 30 to August 5.

NCR will then shift to Enhanced Community Quarantine, the country’s strictest quarantine measure, from August 6 to 20.