Lays down his priority measures as legislator and representative of the people

During the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines’ #BeatCOVID19 Dialogue series on Thursday, December 10, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, as guest speaker, lauded local government units for their untiring service and for sufficiently responding to the needs of their constituents.

In his virtual speech during the event attended by local chief executives, league presidents and representatives from national agencies, Go urged LGUs to continue the bayanihan efforts to overcome the ongoing pandemic.

“Habang dahan-dahan nating binubuksan ang ekonomiya, alalayan natin ang mga maliliit na negosyo at mga ordinaryong manggagawa na makabangon. Higit sa lahat, ‘wag tayo maging kampante, unahin pa rin natin ang kapakanan ng nakararami at buhay ng bawat Pilipino,” Go said.

“Ang pera po ay ating kikitain, subalit ang perang kikitain natin ay hindi po nabibili ang buhay. A lost life is a lost life forever. Kaya ako naman po, I will not limit myself as a legislator. Trabaho namin, constituency, representation and legislation,” he added.

Legislative measures to make government more responsive towards long-term recovery

Go also emphasized on the need to improve the country’s healthcare system as a crucial aspect towards recovery.

“This is why I have filed bills to boost our public health system and ensure that we are better prepared for future pandemics,” he said.

Among Go’s measures include Senate Bill 1226, or the proposed Department of Health Hospital Bed Capacity and Service Capability Rationalization Act, which aims to “streamline the process of upgrading our public hospitals.”

“Ako po mismo witness po ako, napakadami pong ospital na kulang ang hospital beds at napakahaba po ng proseso, hindi na po makaantay ang ating mga pasyente. Minsan nakahilera diyan, isang kama dalawang pasyente. Lalung lalo na po sa panahon ng pandemya, magkakahawaan po talagang kulang ang ating mga hospital equipment, facilities, po sa totoo lang,” he mentioned.

His other measures to improve the country’s healthcare system include SB 1259 or the Mandatory Quarantine Facilities Act of 2020; SB 1528 or An Act Amending RA 11332, known as the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act; SB 1451, also known as the Medical Reserve Corps Act of 2020; and SB 1803 which seeks to institutionalize the system of providing e-Health services to the public.

Among other healthcare measures already enacted into law are the several local hospital bills he sponsored which upgraded various public hospitals nationwide, and the Republic Act 11463 or the Malasakit Centers Act which mandates the establishment of Malasakit Centers in all Department of Health-run hospitals and the Philippine General Hospital.

Meanwhile, Go is also prioritizing the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipinos through Senate Bill No. 1835, which he filed on September 16, 2020 considering inputs from the concerned executive agencies.

“Alam niyo, mahirap naman pong magpasa ng batas na ibi-veto din ng ating executive. Kaya napagkasunduan na po ito ng iba’t ibang ahensya ng executive department na ito po ay compromise na para po matuloy ‘yung pinangako ni Pangulong Duterte na Department of Overseas Filipinos na sinasabi natin na bagong bayani natin. Ibigay natin what is due to them,” Go said.

“Sila po ‘yung bayani natin, more than ten million po ‘yan, nagpapakamatay sila sa ibang bansa. Alam niyo, hindi po nababayaran ang lungkot, hindi magtatrabaho sa ibang bansa ‘yan kung parehas lang po ang suweldo rito. Kaya po bigyan natin sila ng departamentong para sa kanila po na magtitimon, nagpapagitna,” he added.

Go is also pushing for better mechanisms to address natural disasters through SB 205 which seeks to establish a Department of Disaster Resilience. This aims to enhance inter-agency coordination by establishing a cabinet-level agency in-charge of disaster preparedness, response, mitigation and resilience.

“Kung mayroon tayong cabinet-secretary level po na magtitimon po bago pa dumating, preparation and preposition ng goods, coordination between ULAP, between LGUs, governors, mayors, konsehal, lahat po — mayroon pong departamento down to regional and provincial offices na Department of Disaster Resilience — ‘yun na po ang makikipag-coordinate, maiiwan po doon sa lugar at sisiguraduhing matapos ang trabaho hanggang makabangon muli ang mga apektado,” he explained.

To complement the DDR measure, Go filed SB 1228 or the Mandatory Evacuation Center Act which seeks to build evacuation centers and structures stronger than a typhoon.

Go also advised concerned LGUs to ensure public funds are used properly to benefit the most needy. President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the release of financial assistance to LGUs severely hit by Typhoons Ulysses and Rolly by augmenting their respective calamity funds.

“Alam naman natin na ubos talaga ang calamity fund ninyo dahil ginamit niyo po sa COVID-19 pandemic… Kaya po pinaglaban ko, sabi ko puwede bang tulungan ‘yung ma-augment ‘yung calamity fund, ‘yung mga severely hit talaga na tinamaan po na mga LGUs. At pumayag naman po ang ating Pangulo at inaprubahan niya kaagad na tulungan kaagad,” he shared.

Ensure safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines; prioritize poor, vulnerable, frontliners

Assuring the local officials that enough funds had been allotted for the COVID-19 vaccines in 2021 General Appropriations Bill, Go shared that the Senate has already ratified the Bicameral Report for next year’s budget.

“The budget will be focused on addressing the COVID-19 crisis, boosting economic recovery, and continuing the priority programs and projects of the Duterte Administration towards fulfilling the promise of President Duterte of providing a comfortable life for all Filipinos,” he said.

He also recounted how he fought for the budget of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine which has turned out to be crucial in the country’s fight against COVID-19.

“Alam niyo po, ikukwento ko lang po sa inyo, ‘yung RITM muntik na pong mabawasan ang pondo noong nakaraang taon, ay hindi natin akalain na sila pala ang pinaka-importanteng opisina sa pandemyang ito. Binawasan po ng mahigit hundred million, pinabalik ko po sa committee at noong Marso, noong Enero sila ‘yung unang nagte-test,” said Go.

“Paano na lang kaya kung nawalan sila ng pondo? Hindi natin akalain. So, dapat ay laging handa po tayo sa mga ganitong mga pangyayari,” he added.

The 2021 GAB includes funds for COVID-19 vaccines amounting to PhP2.5 billion under the DOH. There is also a standby fund of around PhP70 Billion in the unprogrammed appropriations for vaccine procurement, storage, transport, and distribution of vaccine.

“Ulitin ko lang po, paalala ko lang po kay Secretary Carlito Galvez parati, tuwing nag-uusap kami, unahin muna natin na maging – ‘yung safe — ‘yung safety at efficacy ng vaccine. Ang Pilipino po sa kabababa ko, gusto nila magpa-vaccine, pero ang tanong sinong mauuna? Kaya nagtutulakan, kayo muna, wait and see po ‘yan… lahat po ‘yan ay gustong magpa-vaccine kapag nakita nilang epektibo na po ang vaccine,” Go explained.

He also shared that a National Vaccine Roadmap has already been formulated to ensure the systematic procurement and deployment of the vaccines once they are available.

“’Yung direct procurement, either through annual budget or Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, is only one of the four modes of procurement of government is exploring,” he said.

Other equally important modes include multilateral loans with the ADB and the World Bank, bilateral loans with select countries, and private sector financing through tripartite agreement among the national government, pharmaceutical company and the private company with no cost to government.

“Mayroon pong mga negosyante ngayon at nangako sila na bibili sila ng mga vaccine para sa mga empleyado nila at kalahati po ay ido-donate daw po nila sa ating mga kababayang Pilipino,” he added.

Continuing service to Filipinos in crisis situations

Ending his speech, Go told Filipinos that he will continue to help those in crisis situations wherever they are in the country.

“Pitong araw sa isang linggo, apat na araw po kami sa Senado, tatlong araw po ilalaan ko ‘yan sa pag-iikot. Kahit saang sulok ng Pilipinas — nasunugan, tinamaan ng lindol, apektado ng pagputok ng bulkan, nabahaan, lahat ng klase ng krisis — pupuntahan ko kayo at pakikinggan ko kayo,” he assured.

“Patuloy niyo pa rin po akong magiging tulay kay Pangulong Duterte at makapagbigay po ng kaunting solusyon sa inyong mga problema,” he said.

“Magbayanihan po tayo at huwag po kayong mag-alala, hindi kayo pababayaan ng gobyerno, hindi kayo pababayaan ni Pangulong Duterte. We just need your cooperation, malalampasan rin natin ang pagsubok na kinahaharap natin. At makakabangon muli tayo bilang nagkakaisa at mas matatag na bansa,” he ended.

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