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Include dental health in 2016 budget – Recto

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto has suggested that part of the 2016 national budget should be allocated for oral health care.

Kung halos bawat Pilipino [ay] may sakit sa ngipin, bakit walang pondo para sa ngipin sa national budget? (If almost every Filipino suffers from tooth decay, how come there is no allocation for dental health in the national budget?)” asked Recto in a press statement on Saturday, June 20.

According to him, 9 out of 10 Filipinos suffer from tooth decay but only one in 10 of them can afford to see a dentist at least once a year.

Recto thus wants a line-item fund for dental care to be included in next year’s budget, which Congress will submit in 6 weeks.

“The national budget will remain a toothless instrument in promoting dental health if it does not specifically set aside funds for this purpose,” Recto said.

“It is time to surface dental heath in the pages of the general appropriations bill," he added.

More dentists, oral health care resources

Recto outlined some of the dental care-related problems faced by the country today. (READ: How important is oral health to Filipinos?)

Citing a government survey, the senator said aching teeth or gums causes one in 7 Filipinos to miss work or school at least once a month. Nine out of 10 urban school children have tooth decay as well.

Recto previously said that there is only one dentist for every 70,000 students and teachers. He reiterated his call for the government to hire more dentists, especially for public schools.

“Nationally, there are 18 government dentists per one million Filipinos. In contrast, there are 3,556 elected public officials per one million families,” said the senator.

He ased, “If every 1,000 days we hire through costly elections 81 governors, 143 city mayors, 1,491 town mayors, 11,932 town councilors, so why can't we hire more dentists?”

Aside from the lack of manpower, there are few resources dedicated to oral health care too.

“The National Center for Disease Prevention Control was allocated P23.6 million to push the Oral Fit Child program in 2013. Last year, it was given P35 million to buy for dental sealants and filling materials for pre-school kids,” Recto said.

He estimates that the Department of Education (DepEd) only spent P9 million for dental supplies out of its P37.5-million supply expenses in 2013. “This was equivalent to an annual budget of less than P2 per student a year."

Budget allocation possible

If the government can spend for less important things, said Recto, it can afford a higher budget for dental health.

Kung meron tayong 20 milyong estudyante sa DepEd at ang kalahati ay bibigyan mo ng tig-P15 na sepilyo, ang P150 milyon ay katumbas lamang ng communication expenses ng Department of Agriculture (DAR) sa isang taon,” Recto said.

(If we have 20 million students and you give each of them a toothbrush worth P15, the P150 million that will be used will only be equal to the communication expenses of the Department of Agriculture in one year.)

Or kung bibili ka ng P100-million worth of toothpaste, katumbas lang ‘yan ng ginasta ng DAR sa gasolina noong 2013 (Or if you buy P100-million worth of toothpaste, that will be equal to the amount DAR spent for gasoline in 2013),” he said. (READ: DAR's budget cut in half, but 'enough' to meet targets)

He added that P700 million can be used to purchase dental equipment if the national government's 2015 travel budget was cut by 5%. – Rappler.com

Photo of dental patient via Shutterstock

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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