Here’s why ’08 Philippines budget is anti-poor

Oct. 02, 2007

COMMENTARY | By Ibon Foundation

MANILA — Despite the Arroyo government’s claims of a “social payback” in exchange for the reformed value-added tax, health continues to take a low priority in the national budget, according to independent think-tank Ibon Foundation.

Although the overall government health budget in the proposed 2008 national budget grew 24% to P22.9 billion from P18.4 billion in 2007, government hospitals that provide direct service to poor Filipinos have falling allocations. For example, the budget of 55 government hospitals and medical centers nationwide was slashed by 12% to P3.7 billion from P4.2 billion this year.

Meanwhile, allocations for the operation of a dozen special hospitals, medical centers and institutes for disease prevention and control were reduced by P121 million to P2.6 billion. These hospitals include those frequented by the poor, such as the Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, San Lazaro Hospital and Tondo Medical Center.

Budgetary support for the major specialty hospitals, such as the Lung Center of the Philippines, Philippine Heart Center and Philippine Children’s Medical Center were cut even more drastically by 22% to just P793.6 million. The subsidy for indigent patients was similarly cut by 63%, to P6 million or P10 million less than last year.

Government’s skewed priorities with regard to health spending was further highlighted by the fact that it allotted P1.3 billion in capital outlays for a Health Facilities Enhancement Program likely to be accessible mainly to those with the ability to pay, while a mere P6 million increase was granted for the Doctors to the Barrios and Rural Health Practice programs, which work with a mere P42.3 million.

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