People’s Health, Least in GMA’s Priorities

While Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has repeatedly claimed that health and other social services are her priorities, records show otherwise. The budget for health has been consistently meager, causing dire effects on the people’s conditions.

Volume VIII, No. 25, July 27-August 2, 2008

In 2007, the United Nations ranked the Philippines 90th out of 177 countries for the Human Development Index (HDI). The HDI is a survey on the quality of life of citizens in UN member countries. It measures life expectancy, educational attainment, and GDP per capita. It was developed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as a standard means of measuring human development, a concept, which according to the UNDP, refers to the process of widening the options of persons, giving them greater opportunities for education, health care, income, employment, etc.

Data from United Nations International Children Fund (UNICEF) reveals that in 2006, infant mortality rate in the Philippines is 24 per 1,000 live births.

At least 20 percent of infants born between 1999 and 2006 are with low birth weight. From 2000 to 2006, 28 percent of children under five are underweight.

According to the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), ten mothers die daily of pregnancy-and child-related causes. The group also said that seven out of ten Filipinos die without medical attention.

Malnutrition and hunger remain perennial in the Philippines. UNICEF Representative in the Philippines Nicholas K. Alipui said in a statement in May 2006, “The malnutrition situation in the Philippines is devastating.”

The Philippines is among the ten countries severely affected by malnutrition, which is considered a disease caused by inadequate or excessive intake of food. More than three million Filipino children are suffering from undernutrition, the worst form of malnutrition.

A recent survey by the Social Weather Station (SWS) showed that 14.5 million Filipinos experienced involuntary hunger or hunger due to lack of food between April and June this year.

The number accounts for 16.3 percent of families nationwide or approximately 2.9 million households. It must be noted that it is higher than the 10-year average hunger rate of 12.1 percent. Severe hunger also increased from 3.2 percent to 4.2 percent (760, 000 families or 3.8 million people)

Metro Manila has the highest hunger incidence, hitting a record high of 22 percent. This is equivalent to 530,000 families or 2.65 million people.

A survey by IBON Foundation in April this year showed that 75.3 percent of families could not buy enough food.

Undeniably, poverty has affected the health conditions of the Filipino people.

Based on the 2004 data of the Department of Health (DoH), most of the ten highest causes of morbidity remain to be communicable but preventable diseases such as dengue, diarrhea, bronchitis and tuberculosis.


Amid these conditions, the Arroyo government has neglected the people’s health as data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed.

From 2001 to 2007, the annual average allocation for health is only P13 billion. ($293,918,155 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.23) The budget for 2007 was the lowest in seven years at P11.66 billion ($263,621,976). While the budget for 2008 has increased to P19.77 billion ($446,981,686), this is still a meager P219.66 ($4.966) per person health budget for the year considering that the country’s population is estimated at over 90 million. In addition, this meager budget is fast becoming nil because of run away inflation. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said the inflation rose to11.4 percent this June and could even reach 12 percent.

For this year, the allocation for disease prevention and control is only P4.91 billion ($111,010,626) while P120.13 million ($2,716,029) is allotted for monitoring and surveillance of diseases and outbreaks.

For this year, the 12 specialty government hospitals have a combined budget of P2.79 billion ($63,079,357). These include the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, Rizal Medical Center, East Avenue Medical Center, Quirino Memorial Medical Center, Tondo Medical Center, Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, National Children’s Hospital, National Center for Mental Health, Philippine Orthopedic Center, San Lazaro Hospital, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, and Amang Rodriguez Medical Center.

Five of these hospitals have not received funds for capital outlay. Tondo Medical Center has the lowest budget of P102.44 million ($2,316,075) and the National Center for Mental Health is allotted P461.65 million ($10,437,485).

The budget for the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) for this year is P1.07 billion ($24,191,725), of which P810 million ($18,313,361) is allotted for personnel services and only P3 million ($67,827) for capital outlay.

In 2007, the PGH budget included a measly P15.5 million ($350,440) for medical and dental assistance, including hospitalization, for indigent patients. For this year, no such item is reflected in the PGH’s budget

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