House health panel chair seeks P1B to help DOH combat novel coronavirus

MANILA, Philippines – House committee on health chairperson Angelina "Helen" Tan is set to file a bill that would allocate a supplemental budget of P1 billion to the Department of Health (DOH) to help fight the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

"It is about time that Congress approve a supplemental budget to fight the spread of nCoV in the country and protect Filipinos from this deadly virus," Tan said in a statement on Monday, February 3. (READ: TIMELINE: The novel coronavirus epidemic)

In a separate text message to Rappler, Tan said she plans to file the bill on the supplemental budget either on Monday afternoon or Tuesday, February 4, at the latest.

The measure must be able to go through 3 successful readings in the House and in the Senate before it can be transmitted to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature.

According to Tan, the DOH had submitted to her office an additional budget proposal worth P900 million, which would help fund operations of the following attached bureaus involved in combating the new virus:

"[There was] almost P900 million-plus on the submitted [list], so [I increased the supplemental budget proposal to P1 billion] so they have at least a hundred [million] buffer fund," the House committee on health chair said.

Tan said she also plans to file a separate resolution that would call for a congressional investigation on whether the Philippine government was ready to respond to a health emergency like the novel coronavirus.

"We need to be proactive. If we waited until the first case of nCoV has been confirmed before we acted, it could have been too late [the] hero for us," Tan said.

"The good thing is that the DOH has been proactive and I am positive that it is on top of the situation. But the House committee on health is closely monitoring the actions of the DOH in their response to this health emergency," the congresswoman added.

On Monday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III confirmed they are observing 80 patients for possible 2019-nCoV.

Of this number, a Chinese man has died, 68 are still admitted and isolated in hospitals, while 10 have been discharged but are still being monitored by the DOH. Another patient also died, but the cause of death was due to a complication unrelated to the novel coronavirus.

As of Monday morning, the number of confirmed deaths from the coronavirus outbreak in China has risen to over 360. (READ: What we know so far on the novel coronavirus)

Days after the public clamor for a travel ban on all of mainland China, Duterte eventually prohibited travelers from China, Hong Kong, and Macau from entering the Philippines.

The President is expected to meet with officials from the DOH and other medical experts on Monday to discuss the government response to the novel coronavirus. – Rappler.com

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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