The University of the Philippines received P24.4 billion appropriation from the 2022 national budget, which is P2.89 billion higher than the budget it received in 2021. But despite the budget hike for UP, there was a P566 million cut on the Hospital Services Program budget, which includes the allocation for the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).
This is despite the worsening health situation caused by the pandemic, with 21,819 new cases reported on Friday, January 7 – totaling to 2,910,664 cases – which also comes with the threat of the Omicron variant.
Budget for the provision of medical services suffered a cut by about P198 million, whereas the budget for locally-funded projects was cut by P368 million because of a lower infrastructure budget.
In total, the 2022 budget for the Hospital Services Program amounted to P6.3 billion.
All UP Workers Union (AUPWU) – Manila President Karen Mae Faurillo expressed last October that the government should allocate a P10 billion budget for PGH, emphasizing that the said hospital is “one of the biggest COVID-19 referral centers [in] the country”.
The union’s Vice President Benjamin Santos, Jr. added then that budget cut would make it difficult for PGH to implement its infrastructure plans. The group said that the cut would affect the quality of healthcare services that the PGH delivers.
In August 2021, AUPWU – Manila called on the PGH administration to “resolve the sad plight of PGH health workers”. They pushed for mass hiring of health workers; implementation of P16,000 national minimum wage; and regularization of contractual health workers.
Since the onset of the pandemic, healthcare workers have been calling for justifiable compensation and benefits, including the COVID-19 Special Risk Allowance (SRA) and Actual Hazard Duty Pay (AHDP).
In the 2022 national budget, P50 billion would be allocated for the SRA of medical frontliners.
While this decision is welcomed by the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA), it can be recalled that in 2021, healthcare workers who were expecting to receive benefits as mandated by the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) were surprised to have received only a small fraction of the P15,000 compensation that they were promised.
The Department of Health (DOH) recognized at the time that many health workers have yet to receive their grants, and the department has since said that they would ensure the prompt distribution of benefits.
Meanwhile, the 2022 national budget signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last December 30 promises to ensure more funds for managing the COVID-19 pandemic, with P188.3 billion allocated for the Department of Health (DOH).
However, it is notable that both the military and police both acquire bigger budgets than the DOH, with P213.78 billion allocated for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and P190.69 billion set for the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Progressive groups have repeatedly pointed out that even amid a health crisis, the government’s approach to dealing with the pandemic has been primarily militaristic.
In fact, despite threats to defund the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), the task force still received P17 billion in the national budget.
The NTF-ELCAC is controversial for its red-tagging and harassment on progressive groups.
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2022 UPLB projects in focus
Meanwhile, the bulk of the total operations budget for the UP system is allocated to the Higher Education Program, which includes infrastructure projects.
In UPLB, the programs funded include the third phase of the completion of dormitory for graduate students (P40 million); rehabilitation of the Sawmill Compound (P35 million); rehabilitation of the Meat Science Building (P25 million); and the Pahinungod Building (P27 million).
Also included in the budget is the construction of the National Zoonoses Center (P100 million).
According to UPLB, the National Zoonoses Center will have its laboratories and facilities dedicated to zoonoses studies, which aims to detect, prevent, and respond to zoonotic diseases, or infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. With the creation of the program for zoonotic diseases, UPLB says that the university is now “one step ahead in helping avoid another pandemic”.
More UPLB projects are focused on the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH), which serves as the “national research and development organization specializing in agricultural, environmental, food and feeds, and health biotechnology”.
Projects under the said institute include the restoration and enhancement of research, development, and public service program (P20 million); construction of Microbial Bank (P30 million); pilot plant and screenhouses for biofertilizers, biostimulants, and biopesticides (P20 million); and the procurement of laboratory equipment (P20 million).
Moreover, part of the projects for the Research Program in UPLB include the construction of the Food Processing Research and Development Center Building (P316 million) and the Futures Thinking Research and Innovations for Food Systems and Food Security (P5 million).
Under the Technical Advisory Extension Program, P145 million is allocated for the rehabilitation of the Dairy Production Building of the Dairy Training and Research Institute (DTRI), an independent unit of the College of Agriculture and Food Science (CAFS).
For the UP system, about P31.7 million has been allocated to the “operationalization of face-to-face classes”, while P500,000 is set for the Student Assistance Program. [P]
Photo from All UP Workers Union – Manila