By Filane Mikee Cervantes

Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman (File photo courtesy of the DBM)

MANILA – Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah Pangandaman on Friday approved the PHP27.453-billion Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) for the health emergency allowance (HEA) of medical workers.

In a statement, Pangandaman said the released fund is expected to compensate 5,039,926 unpaid HEA and 4,283 Covid-19 sickness and death compensation claims of eligible healthcare and non-healthcare workers.

She said the SARO was issued to the Department of Health (DOH) to cover the payment of Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances (PHEBA).

PHEBA includes Special Risk Allowance, compensation for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) sickness and death, and additional benefits like meals, accommodation, and transportation allowances for healthcare workers.

Pangandaman said this is in line with the directive of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to settle all unpaid HEA claims of healthcare workers.

“Hindi na po kailangang hintayin pa next year o sa 2025 national budget ang pondo para mabayaran ‘yung natitirang HEA claims. Dahil tulad po ng sinabi ko, tutuparin po natin ang pangako ni Pangulong Bongbong Marcos na makuha na ng ating mga healthcare worker ang kanilang benepisyo ngayong taon (We don’t have to wait until next year or for the 2025 national budget to pay the remaining HEA claims. Because just like what I said, we will fulfill the promise of President Bongbong Marcos that our healthcare workers will receive their benefits this year),” Pangandaman said.

To recall, the DOH officially requested the PHP27.453 billion funding requirement in May this year.

According to the DBM, the same amount was likewise proposed by the agency for inclusion in their Fiscal Year 2025 National Expenditure Program proposal.

Pangandaman said the budget department will closely coordinate with the DOH to ensure the timely, proper, and efficient distribution of HEA.

“Sana po ay magawa nila ito sa mas madaling panahon, dahil matagal na din po itong hinihintay ng ating mga kababayan (Hopefully, they [DOH] could do this at the soonest possible time since our countrymen have been waiting for this for a long time),” she said.

Barangay health workers (BHWs) who were part of the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic are entitled to receive HEA, the DOH said.

The DOH said BHWs assigned to licensed health facilities or health-related establishments involved in the pandemic response “in accordance with the National Action Plan against Covid-19 PDITR+ strategies are eligible for the HEA”.

“Once the Department of Budget and Management has downloaded the PHP27-billion Special Allotment Release Order to the Department of Health, we will immediately sub-allot it to our respective Centers for Health Development (CHD),” it said.

The CHD will facilitate the disbursement of the HEA to the local government units and private health facilities under their jurisdiction. (PNA)