The health sector got a major boost in the P3.7-trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB), getting over a fifth of the PI 00- billion increase in the budgets of several departments and constitutional offices this year. Reporting to the plenary the highlights of the 2019 GAB just before its ratification on Friday, Sen. Loren Legarda, chairperson of the finance committee, said the Department of H ealth's b u d ­ get this year got a boost of P21.5 billion. The amounts include P15 billion for the upgrading of hospitals under H ealth Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) and provision of P4.8 complete the P7~billion requirement for the hiring of m edical personnel who will manage the facilities. Legarda said allocation for medical assistance for indigent patients has been likewise increased. "We are also providing funds for cancer medicines to help cancer patients in coping with their costly treatment," she said. Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, chairman of the health committee, said the funding for the HFEP would help ensure the effective implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Bill. Ejercito fought for the restoration of funding for the HFEP after the Department of Budget and Management cut the allocation for it. He said the facilities would ensure the smooth implementation of the UHC measure, which includes all Filipinos in the National Health Insurance Program as well as bring down to an affordable level the people's expenses on health services including but not limited to checkups and selected laboratory procedures. Congress, the judiciary as well as several constitutional offices and departments also got increases in their respective budgets in the GAB. Congress got an increase of PI.8 billion for this year to cover the additional operating requirement of the Senate and the Commission on Appointments, including funding for the construction of a new Senate building. The Office of the'Vice President's budget this year will have a net hike of P215 million to fund various social programs of the OVP intended to improve the life of the poor and for the special duty allowance of .security officers assigned to Vice President Leni Robredo. The Department of Education was given a budgetary increase of P2.521 billion to fund various initiatives including P800 million for the allowance of teachers during the observance of World Teachers' Day, training, computerization and school-feeding program—- State universities and colleges will have an additional P2.8 billion for capital outlay, among others. The Department of Labor and Employment will have a net increase of P2.612 billion for emergency aid for distressed overseas Filipino workers, while the Department of Information and Communications Technology was given an additional P2 billion for the national broadband and cybersecurity programs. The Department of the Interior and Local Government obtained an additional funding of PI.75 billion for the construction of the Emergency 911 Command Center as well as more capital outlay for both the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Fire Protection. The D epartm ent of N ation al Defense got an increase of P3.1 billion to fund various programs including those for the integration of rebel returnees, operating expenses of the Veterans Memorial Medical Center and additional allowances for members of the Citizens' Armed Forces Geographical Units. The Department of Public Works and Highways obtained an increase of P32.92 billion for infrastructure projects while Department of Science and Technology got P450.25 million more to fund research grants. The Department of Social Welfare and Development was given an additional P3.16 billion for its protective services programs as well as for the construction of more halfway homes for children in conflict with the law. The Department of Tourism has P38 million more while the National Economic and Development Authority obtained an increase of PI 64.1 million for various research/ studies to be undertaken by NED A, including the preparation of various master plans of local government units. The judiciary got a budgetary hike of P2.1 billion for the construction of the Cagayan de Oro complex, and halls of justice under the Supreme Court as vvell as buildings for the Sandiganbayan and Court of Appeals.

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