Ubial: PH drug problem a 'public health emergency'

MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said on Tuesday, October 18, the drug problem in the Philippines can be considered a public health emergency given the rise in the number of drug surrenderers in the country.

Ubial was in Malacañang on Tuesday to give updates on the mega treatment and rehabilitation center (TRC) in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, which is expected to be fully operational in November.

During the press briefing, she revealed that the health department will be using around P145 million ($3.01 million)* of its Quick Response Fund (QRF) to address the immediate needs in TRCs.

Of this amount, P130 million ($2.70 million) is for existing TRCs to "expand their capacity to double their original capacity," while P15 million ($311,330.80) is for the hiring of new employees in Central Luzon, where the first mega TRC is located.

The total QRF allotted for the Department of Health in the General Appropriations Act is P500 million ($10.38 million), according to the health secretary. (READ: War on drugs: Rehabilitation must be more than a knee-jerk reaction)

On Tuesday, Ubial was asked how she justified the use of the QRF to address the country's drug problem.

"That's just part of the use of the fund. But the fund is actually used for any public health emergency, and the surrenderers that we have now is considered a public health emergency," Ubial explained.

She said this "mental health problem" is classified as an emergency because of the increase in the number of cases.

"So it's more or less considered a public health emergency – the increase in the number of cases for a particular disease," Ubial added.

From July 1 till the 3rd week of October, the Duterte administration's campaign against drugs has already seen over 4,400 personalities killed both from legitimate police operations and extrajudicial or vigilante-style killings.

Meanwhile, there are at least 746,066 surrenderers in Project TokHang, but only around 500 of them have been admitted so far in existing TRCs.

Under the proposed 2017 budget, the department has allotted P3 billion ($62.27 million) for the operation of government-run TRCs in the country.

Aside from the one in Nueva Ecija, government also wants to establish 3 more mega TRCs – one each in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. – Rappler.com

*US$1 = P48.19

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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