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P110-billion PhilHealth funds idle – senators

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P110-billion PhilHealth funds idle – senators

BY EFREN L. DANAO
Manila Times
Thursday, 07 October 2010 00:00



SENATORS Ralph Recto and Franklin Drilon questioned Wednesday why the PhilHealth is keeping P110 billion as retained earnings. They asked the question after Rey Aquino, president of PhilHealth, told the Senate Committee on Finance headed by Drilon that PhilHealth has P115 billion in assets and liabilities amounting to P6 billion.

“PhilHealth’s accumulated reserved fund is more than thrice the proposed budgetary allocation of the Department of Health for next year, which is about P32.6 billion,” Recto exclaimed.

He said the funds could be used to improve the public healthcare system.

“Since these funds are not pension funds like those of the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System, then there is no defensible reason for PhilHealth to hold on to these earnings,” Recto said.

He said that with a retained income of P110 billion, PhilHealth can increase its members’ benefits through the further reduction of out-of-pocket expenses related to healthcare.

During the hearing of the Department of Health and its attached agencies, including PhilHealth, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that the upgrading of health facilities nationwide needs P19 billion but only about P9 billion is proposed in the 2011 budget.

Recto said PhilHealth could use its funds to augment the Health department budget in upgrading hospitals, rural health units and barangay health stations.

Drilon said PhilHealth should have used its retained earnings to better use than keeping it in banks.

“Of course, this also gives them the flexibility on giving themselves allowances and bonuses,” he said.

Meanwhile, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said that amendments introduced by Congress to the budget could not be implemented if these would result in increasing the budget deficit.

Sen. Loren Legarda said that if amendments accepted by the budget sponsors after debates on the floor could not be implemented by the Department of Budget and Management, and then the budget deliberations by Congress are mere “moro-moro.”

Abad noted that in the 2010 budget, P16 billion was authorized for release without fund support.

“If we release these funds without support, then the budget deficit will increase and other projects will have to be suppressed. The problem is that other legislators and other interests waiting for the release of their funds do not want those projects to be suppressed,” he explained.

Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd also called for the elimination of the unprogrammed fund in the budget. This is a lump sum appropriation that could be released only when revenues exceed projections.

“It is so broad that it gives the executive a blank check. We have railed against this in the past. It is about time that we do away with it,” he said.

Abad said that while the Aquino administration is different from the previous one, it couldn’t do away with the unprogrammed fund. He said that if ongoing loan negotiations will result in additional funds the next year, then loan proceeds could be used for other projects.

“If we go to Congress every time we need new funds, it might take time,” he added.

 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 06 October 2010 15:45 )