Finally! The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has made available the remaining P27 billion COVID-19 health emergency allowance (HEA) for release to the health workers who provided service and risked their lives four years ago during the height of the pandemic. The Department of Health (DOH) requested the budget for 2025 but the funds have been made earlier. A total of 5,039,926 of validated HEAs will be covered.

The final release will cover a total of 4,283 COVID Death and Sickness Compensation claims when the bones of these health workers who died serving the patients have already decomposed and the long term brain and lung damage suffered by several doctors, nurses and medical workers have started changing their lives and their families.

Some of us may say better late than never as most perhaps have already moved on with their lives after the terrifying pandemic, the delay though must not be taken for granted. We all saw how COVID-19 shattered several dreams and destroyed the families especially of the innocent health workers who were left with no choice but to serve. This is not about ultimately completing the compensation.

The current administration must take a look at the current system of allocating and disbursing public funds. The delay in payment is both abuse and corruption. It is an  insult to the medical workers who faithfully did their jobs despite the risk of death and severe difficulties. Imagine, doctors and nurses living in congested quarters because their exposure could as well pose grave danger to their families and are left with nothing as they cannot even easily get out to provide for their own needs. Then it took four years for the government to provide the emergency allowances.

The key matter is emergency allowance and it is only in this country where you can find an emergency allowance being provided for, four years late. Maybe our sense of emergency is never urgent as generally we only act and react on or after an incident when we could have prepared ahead of time.

This all boils to good governance, priorities and fiscal management. It was only after the pandemic that the Filipino people came to know of the P41-billion Pharmally scandal where a company with P625 thousand capital was able to secure from DOH nine procurement contracts worth P8.68 billion. The deliveries include substandard and overpriced PPEs, surgical masks, face shields and RT-PCR kits. It turned out that Pharmally was personally introduced by Chinese Michael Yang to former President Rodrigo Duterte who eventually was appointed as presidential advisor, a first in government since the Constitution does not allow the appointment of foreigners to any government positions. Further investigation yielded that Pharmally also has contracts with DBM and the Department of Transportation-Philippine National Railways.

In short, the Duterte administration spent P41 billion on corruption and their interests but cannot afford to provide for the HEAs of the health workers. The administration of President Marcos should look into this for purposes of accountability and ensure that such would not happen again in the near future. This is also the best time to implement fiscal measures that would provide for emergency needs not only for healthcare workers but for the Filipinos in general.