DOH Secretary: Barangay Health Station funds didn't come from PhilHealth

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 5) — The funding for barangay health stations (BHS) did not come from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) senior citizens' fund, Health Secretary Francisco Duque confirmed on Thursday.

Duque told CNN Philippines' The Source that he consulted with Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to clarify where the ₱1.8 billion supposedly allotted to the stations came from.

"Ang sabi naman sa akin, at nagcertify naman sila, na ang pondong ginamit sa (Special Allotment Release Order) covering (BHS), dental vans, and medical checkup equipment and materials, galing ito sa Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund savings... ng buong gobyerno," said Duque.

[Translation: I was told, and they certified it, that the funds used in SAROs covering (BHS), dental vans, and medical checkup equipment and materials came from Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund savings... of the whole government.]

The Health Secretary also said out of the ₱8.1 billion budget for the BHS project, only ₱1.2 billion was released. The rest is still intact in government banks.

The project was a subject of scrutiny at a Senate probe on Wednesday. PhilHealth Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Ruben Basa said in May that ₱10.6 billion of its senior citizens' fund was funneled to these health facilities.

Now that Health Department officials have clarified the source of this funding, it remains unclear where the PhilHealth's ₱10.6 billion went.

The Department of Budget and Management "is in the better position to say where that ₱10.6 billion (is)," said Duque.

Amid the setback from supposedly misaligned funds and a net income loss of ₱8.92 billion last year, Basa previously warned PhilHealth's coffers would run dry by 2022.

But for the Health Chief, the government health insurance system is not in danger yet.

"If I were to use as a metric its capacity to pay, it's okay," said Duque.

He added there was just a need to review PhilHealth benefit packages and amend the law on health insurance.

Duque's statement about the source of the BHS funding confirms the stance of former Health Secretary Janette Garin, who oversaw the construction of the stations.

Garin is under fire for the alleged poor planning of the project. Out of 270 completed units, only 218 had complete documents. In some areas, schools where the units were to be built were not informed of the stations.

Nonetheless, the Health Secretary believes it is an important project. The stations are meant to be an accessible delivery unit for basic medical services, particularly in far-flung communities.

"This is a major building block of our universal healthcare aspiration," said Duque. "I don't mind if we have to restart this project for as long as we need to do it such as a way that the planning is thoroughly made."

With only 42 percent of barangays having a station, the Health Department says it has roughly 20,000 more stations to build.

Watch the full interview with Duque here.