Despite the threat of inclement weather brought by Typhoon Tisoy, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go pushed through to join the opening of the 52nd Malasakit Center in the country on Tuesday, December 3, at the Ospital ng Malabon in Malabon City.

The launch was led by Sec. Michael Lloyd Dino of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV), the partner of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President in establishing earlier Malasakit Centers when Go was still with the executive branch.

The centers serve as a one-stop-shop for easy access to government medical financial assistance for Filipinos in need, especially indigent patients. Agencies, such as the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) are housed at these centers.

In his message, the senator recounted how the Malasakit Center program was conceived to improve the access of Filipinos to quality and efficient healthcare services from the government.

“Noong mayor pa si Pangulong Duterte ng Davao City, maraming lumalapit sa kanya, humihingi ng tulong. Kahit hindi taga-Davao, lalapit kay mayor, may dalang bill ng hospital,” Go said.

“Pero sabi ng Commission on Audit (COA), bawal gamitin ang pera ng Davao sa mga hindi taga-Davao. Doon ko nakita ang puso ni Pangulong Duterte sa mga nangangailangan ng tulong. Sabi sa akin ng Pangulo, ‘Bong, hanapan mo ng paraan. Kahit taga-saan yan, para sa akin, Pilipino rin ang mga ‘yan,'” he added.

“Sabi ko, ano ba ang pwede nating konsepto para hindi na pahirapan ang ating mga kababayan? Ganito po nabuo ang konsepto ng Malasakit Center,” Go explained.

In these centers, patients or their representatives will only need to go to the Malasakit Center inside hospitals and fill out a single form to seek medical assistance. Senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) also have a designated express lane inside the centers.

“Zero balance po ang target natin dito. May express lane din po para sa mga senior citizens at PWDs,” Go said, adding that all Filipinos are entitled to the assistance given by the said centers.

“Basta Pilipino ka, qualified kang lumapit sa Malasakit Center. Pera po ninyo ito. Inyo po ito,” the Senator emphasized.

To ensure that all government hospitals get their own Malasakit Centers, Go filed in July Senate Bill (SB) No. 1076, known as the “Malasakit Center Act of 2019”, which seeks to institutionalize the establishment of Malasakit Centers in all 73 hospitals run by the DOH as well as in the Philippine General Hospital in Manila.

The bill was approved on its third and final reading in the Senate on November 11 with all affirmative votes, while the House of Representatives (HOR) approved it on November 18.

Under the bill, hospitals run by local government units (LGUs) and other public hospitals may also establish their own Malasakit Centers, provided that they meet a standard set of criteria and guarantee the availability of funds for the operation of their centers, including its maintenance, personnel and staff training, among others to ensure sustainability and consistency of the services of the centers.

Meanwhile, during an interview after the launch in Malabon City, Go said that the ceremonial signing of the Malasakit Center Act of 2019 will happen later today, December 3, at the Malacañang Palace.

“Magkakaroon po tayo ng ceremonial signing mamayang gabi sa Malacañang along with the bill postponing the barangay elections. Magiging batas na po ito,” said Go, adding that the legislative measure postponing the Barangay and SK elections will also be part of the ceremonial signing later today.

“Importante maging batas ito para hindi bungi bungi ang mga centers dahil may mga gumagawa ng Malasakit Center sa LGU level na wala naman ‘yung apat na ahensya. Kulang po iyon. We will set a criteria na dapat ay naroon ang mga ahensya ng gobyerno,” he added.

“Sa kanila po ito. ‘Yung Malasakit Center para po ito sa Pilipino, sa mga Pilipinong nangangailangan sa pagpapagamot. Huwag natin silang pahirapan, tulungan natin sila.”

As to President Rodrigo Duterte’s marching orders regarding Typhoon Tisoy, Go said, “Kagabi inabot ng hanggang 2 am ang Pangulo dahil sa Cabinet meeting. Nagkaroon ng briefing ang National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) kung saan ang path ng bagyo.”

Go also advised the public to keep safe during the typhoon, saying “Hopefully po sana walang masaktan. Para sa akin ‘yung gamit naman nabibili po ‘yun. Magtulungan lang po tayo. Ingat po kayo. Sana walang masaktan, walang mamatay. Mahirap po dahil hindi nabibili ‘yung buhay. Prepare lang tayo ng tubig at lalong-lalo na po ‘yung mga anak natin, lagay natin sila sa mga safe na lugar o kung mayroon man evacuation center ang inyong mga lugar. I’m sure ‘yung mga LGUs natin ay naghahanda na po sa darating na bagyo sa kanilang lugar.”

As for updates on Go’s filed measure seeking the creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR), the senator said that the bill has already been taken up in the Senate committee level. If passed, Senator Go will ask the President to certify it as urgent.

“Pumasa na po ito sa committee level sa House. Sa Senado, pinag-uusapan na po namin ito at nagkaroon na kami ng committee hearing. Kung pumasa man ito (in the committee level), ipapa-certify namin ito kay Pangulong Duterte as urgent. ‘Wag na natin hintayin na magkaroon ng earthquakes, magkaroon ng bagyo na ganito,” Go said.

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