Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Third SOS solidarity mission off to Eastern Samar

The third solidarity mission of health disaster group Samahang Operasyon Sagip (SOS) is travelling again to Eastern Samar to reach the upland areas of Quinapondan, Giporlos, and Balangiga in Eastern Samar today, December 17 until the 22nd. These communities very scarcely received relief and medical assistance since the onslaught of typhoon Haiyan.

SOS President Rosalinda C. Tablang announced that for the third wave of relief and medical mission efforts, they will be serving at least 1,500 families in barangays Sto. NiƱo, Catilian, and Anislag in Quinapondan; barangays Roxas, Huknan, 6, and 7 in Giporlos and; barangays Gimmayuhan, Cansumangkay, and Bunga in Balangiga -- all in Eastern Samar province.

In the midst of all the merry-making and warm heartedness this Yuletide season, Tablang appealed to “kind souls who may find joy in giving.” “Not everybody may have as much in their pockets, but in so many other ways, each one can help,” she added.

Aside from the family food packs that consist of 8 kilos rice, 5 pieces canned goods, ½ kg sugar, ½ L cooking oil, ½ kg mung beans, ¼ kg salt, ½ kg dried fish, and ½ bar laundry detergent, we are also bringing hygiene kits, plastic sheets, nails, flashlights, candles, and matches,” she said.

Tablang expressed that aside from the relief packs, the communities requested for simple construction materials to enable them to build their modest shelters anew. “We are also bringing some gasoline to power the community chainsaw because the people want to rebuild their bridge in Barangay Huknan that was toppled down by [typhoon] Haiyan,” she noted.

SOS volunteers are also packing donated blankets, personal hygiene kits including sanitary napkins and jerry cans for potable water storage.

For the medical mission, the SOS team is headed by four doctors, including an infectious disease specialist from the United States, and several nurses.

Together with the communities in Leyte and Samar in the Visayas, SOS is untiringly calling for immediate and comprehensive rehabilitation efforts.

The continuous medical and relief missions of SOS are made possible through the kindness of donors, from all ages and all walks of life, here and abroad. SOS is continuing its resource generation drives for the long term rehabilitation of affected communities in Leyte and Samar. For inquiries, please contact Mel, 0947-4535788 or Grace, (+632) 929-8109. They may also be emailed at sos.phils@gmail.com.##

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Foreign loan will further bury the nation into the quagmire of debt and poverty

The last thing the Filipino people need right now is to pay-off more debts in the future.

This was Samahang Operasyong Sagip’s (SOS) reaction to reports that the Philippine government plans on incurring new loans from the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) amounting to US$1 billion. The two financial institution giants appropriated US$500 million each for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) affected areas.

SOS is a disaster management group made up of different health NGOs and advocates.

Latest government estimates say that a successful reconstruction effort in the typhoon’s aftermath can amount to P250 billion (US$5.8 million).

Rosalinda C. Tablang, SOS president, noted that while additional infusion of budget may sound encouraging to some, she reminded the public that what these banks are giving are loans and not grants. “Loans are meant to be paid. And, when a government decides to borrow from lenders such as WB and ADB, it’s the people who will pay later on,” Tablang said.

She further commented that the storm surge and foreign loan have one thing in common – both are catastrophically fatal to the people as this means that Filipinos, including the victims of Typhoon Yolanda will be further burdened in paying the new calamity loan. The Philippine’s foreign debt has reached $60.3 billion at the end of 2012.

SOS also said that the ADB and WB are at the “height of their insensitivity and greed for taking advantage of the recent disaster to rake in more profit through loan interest.” Tablang commented that loans are always with conditionality, “paying off the principal amount plus the interest will mean larger cuts in the national budget for the coming years.” This will translate to smaller allotments for basic social services such as health, education, housing, agricultural subsidy and wage increase among others, she argued.

Instead of loans, SOS asserted that the government “should use foreign grants, local donations, and specific allotments from the national budget to rehabilitate the regions devastated by Yolanda.

As of this writing, the Foreign Aid and Transparency Hub (FAiTH) website marked a total of PhP4,604,299,695.10 or US$104,968,300 of foreign aid from various international agencies.

On top of these, the government should “increase the national calamity fund in the next year’s appropriation.” Calamity fund for this year was meagerly allotted PhP7.5 billion or a measly .75% of the PhP2.006 trillion 2013 national budget.

Tablang said that the Aquino government should have at least shown a little degree of independence and self-reliance.

Instead of entertaining loans from international financial institutions should decisively allocate significant budget for post-Yolanda rehabilitation efforts. Billions of people’s money that are being stashed away to corruption should be spent wisely to help millions of families that were rendered homeless and economically devastated by Typhoon Yolanda.

Should it sincerely wish to help the people, the Aquino administration can create rehabilitation funds without having to be enslaved by foreign loans that have strings attached to it. If Aquino pushes through with the loans from IMF-WB, he makes it all too obvious, again, that foreign domination through economic control is unforgiving even in the most trying times,” she ended.##

Sunday, December 1, 2013

DOH guilty of malversation of public money for wasted medicines

While eight out of ten Filipinos cannot afford to buy essential medicines, the Department of Health (DOH) wasted P17.5 million worth of medicines acquired in 2012 and prior years.

Council for Health and Development (CHD), pioneer of community based approach to health, tagged the health department’s latest hubbub as “unacceptable and inhumane” because the expired and wasted medicines “could have saved hundreds of poor people’s lives.

In a report published on November 12, 2013, the Commission on Audit (COA), state auditors revealed that P6, 647, 821.45 worth of drugs and medicines were found to be expired in the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH), Philippine Orthopedic Center (POC), Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRRMMC), BGH in Region II, and Center for Health and Development (CHD) – Bicol. The report also indicated that another P10, 857, 388.05 worth of medical supplies, drugs and medicines were overstocked exceeding the normal three months requirements in Tondo Medical Center (TMC), and Southern Isabela General Hospital (SIGH) in Region II. The DOH wastage totaled to P17, 505, 209.50.

COA furthered that the DOH retained hospitals and agencies did not have specific recipients for its procured stocks and did not have proper planning, monitoring and control on utilization and distribution.

Dr. Eleanor A. Jara, CHD executive director said that the expired stocks in NCMH and POC included TB medicines that could have provided “50 children or 68 adult TB patients with full course treatments.

She also noted that expired stocks in BGH Region II also included 1,583 packs of medicines from the DOH P100 Project. The P100 is a package of a complete course of antibiotics or maintenance drugs for hypertension, diabetes or asthma. COA indicated that these packs were “found to be expired for almost two years because these have to be issued per pack and patients prefer to buy medicines outside which is per piece.

This account just goes to show how DOH failed to hit the nail’s head in terms of making medicines affordable for the poor. Poor compliance is not solely because a patient chooses not to complete the course or faithfully follow a maintenance regimen. Poor compliance is largely because of the expensive prices of medicine,” Dr. Jara shared.

She added that Health Undersecretary Ted Herbosa’s statements to the media that the expired medicines and supplies may have been acquired before they assumed office can very well be likened to Pontius Pilate’s hand washing.

It’s the easy way out. Current DOH officials should have investigated all nooks and crannies such as this as soon as they assumed office.

The expired medicines are a reflection of the failed systems and policies DOH has. “It’s very sad that precious funds from the public coffers have gone to waste instead of providing for free medicines and health services,” Dr. Jara ended.##


Eleanor A. Jara, M.D.
Executive Director, Council for Health and Development
0927-9259413 / (+632) 929-8109