“Give to HCWs what is due them” says Bong Go

As he lauds approval of additional funds for their special risk allowance

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go welcomed the recent approval of additional budget to cover the payment of the COVID-19 Special Risk Allowance to healthcare workers (HCWs) who are yet to receive the benefit.

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the release of PhP1.185 billion charged against the 2021 Contingent Fund to cover the SRA of eligible private HCWs and non-Department of Health plantilla personnel who are directly catering to or in contact with COVID-19 patients.

“Nararapat lamang na mabigyan sila ng dagdag na kompensasyon bilang pagkilala sa kanilang sakripisyo. Kailanman ay hindi sila pababayaan ng gobyerno,” the senator said.

“Ang ating mga medical frontliners ay ang mga sundalo sa gyerang ito. Sila ang tinuturing nating bayani sa laban kontra COVID-19. Bilang Chair ng Senate Committee on Health, ipaglalaban ko ang karapatan at kapakanan nila palagi,” he added.

The Department of Budget and Management has previously released PhP8.189 billion for SRA benefits which covered 497,043 HCWs.

Earlier, Go urged concerned authorities to exercise flexibility in implementing the terms of the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act, which serves as the legal basis for the SRA.

“Bigyan natin ng sapat na suporta ang medical frontliners. Bawat araw ay nasa panganib ang kanilang buhay. Siguraduhin nating mabibigyan ang lahat ng qualified healthcare workers ng Special Risk Allowance at iba pang insentibo o benepisyo na naaayon sa batas,” appealed Go.

“Kaya ako umaapela na maging flexible tayo sa pag-iimplementa ng nakasaad sa batas at kung kakayanin ng pondo ay bigyan na ang lahat ng qualified ng fixed na amount ng SRA kaysa bilangin pa natin ang kanilang pag-duty bawat araw,” he added.

To guarantee that their contributions are adequately recognized, Go also expressed his support for extending the SRA to all HCWs working in hospitals. Given the significant number of COVID-19 cases admitted in the country’s healthcare institutions, he pointed out that practically all HCWs are entitled to the benefit.

“Lahat naman ng health workers na naka-duty ay maituturing na exposed sa banta ng COVID-19. Hindi nakikita ang kalaban na ito kung kaya’t mahirap paghiwalayin pa kung sino ang exposed at sino ang hindi,” noted Go.

“Pagdating mo sa ospital, ‘di mo naman masasabi. Once nasa loob ka na, prone at maituturing na exposed ka na rin. Hindi mo masabi na walang virus sa dinaanan mong floor dahil dito lang ang virus kasi hindi nga natin nakikita ang kalaban,” he explained in an earlier interview.

Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Go authored and co-sponsored Senate Bill No. 2421 which will provide health workers with a fixed monthly COVID-19 Risk Allowance for the duration of the current State of Emergency in lieu of the special risk allowance and other financial compensation granted under the Bayanihan 2. Under the measure, those eligible for the benefits will include all healthcare workers and other necessary personnel assigned in health facilities.

Go also successfully pushed for the allocation of PhP51 billion in the 2022 budget for the compensation of COVID-19 HCWs. He went on to stress that the government should do everything possible to help HCWs, considering their critical role in fighting the pandemic and preserving lives.

“As much as possible, kung kakayanin naman ng pondo, ibigay na natin lahat ng suportang pwede nating ibigay sa medical frontliners dahil sila naman ang maituturing na mga bayani sa laban na ito,” Go stressed.

In 2019, Go was also instrumental in the enactment of the Salary Standardization Law 5, as its author and co-sponsor. The law gives civilian government employees, including nurses, their fifth round of salary increases broken down in tranches.

In the same year, he also ensured that sufficient funding was allotted for the implementation of a Supreme Court decision upholding Section 32 of the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, some 18 years after the law was enacted. The law increases the minimum salary grade of the Nurse I position to SG-15. The ruling was implemented the following year.

Bong Go shares the Christmas spirit with hospital patients, watchers in Davao City

Continuing his yearly tradition, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go visited the patients and their watchers at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City hours before Christmas Eve to extend assistance and spread the holiday cheer amid these challenging times.

“Sa mga kababayan ko, sana masaya ang inyong Pasko. Kahit nandito kayo sa ospital, ang importante safe tayo. Huwag kayong mag-alala dahil tutulungan namin kayo ni Pangulong (Rodrigo) Duterte sa inyong pagpapaospital,” Go reassured the patients.

“Hindi man ako tumuloy sa pagtakbo, nandito pa rin ako handang magserbisyo. Hindi namin sasayangin ang pagkakataon na binigay niyo sa amin. Ibabalik namin sa inyo ang serbisyo na para sa inyong lahat,” he added.

The senator and his staff distributed snacks, food and medicine packs, and masks to a total of 107 individuals, consisting of 94 hospital watchers and 13 vendors, in compliance with the required health and safety protocols. The distribution was carried out in batches at the Balay Pahulayan, a common resting area located within the hospital.

Some also received new pairs of shoes and bicycles for their commuting needs, while others were provided computer tablets for their children’s educational use under the blended learning approach.

Moreover, personnel from the Department of Social Welfare and Development provided financial assistance under its Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation program.

Continuing his message, Go urged everyone eligible to get vaccinated and complete their shots when given the opportunity. He reiterated that fully vaccinated individuals have significantly lower risk of contracting severe cases of COVID-19. He likewise stressed that greater public cooperation in the national vaccination drive can help the country attain herd immunity and return to normalcy.

“Huwag kayong matakot dahil ang bakuna ang tanging susi upang tayo ay unti-unting makabalik sa ating normal na pamumuhay. Ang hirap ng sitwasyon noon dahil naka-quarantine tayo. Pero ngayon, kaunti na lang ang bilang ng mga kaso dahil marami na mga bakunado,” remarked Go.

“Pero ‘wag tayo maging kumpiyansa dahil delikado pa din ang panahon habang nandiyan pa ang COVID. Sumunod tayo sa mga awtoridad habang nagbabakuna tayo. Sa awa ng Diyos, baka makakabalik na din tayo sa normal natin na pamumuhay,” he added.

The senator went on to encourage the beneficiaries and their loved ones with health concerns to take advantage of the SPMC’s Malasakit Center to conveniently avail of the medical assistance programs offered by the government.

The Malasakit Center is a one-stop shop which brings together the offices of the DSWD, Department of Health, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office under one roof. The program was institutionalized under the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019, which Go principally authored and sponsored in the Senate.

“Twenty-three years akong nagtrabaho kasama si Pangulong Duterte. Alam namin ang problema sa baba kung saan hirap ang mga tao makahingi ng tulong mula sa gobyerno. Kaya isinulong namin ang batas na ito para nasa loob na ng ospital ang mga ahensya na tutulong para maging zero balance ang billing ninyo,” explained Go.

“Ngayon, kung hindi kayang i-cover, magsabi lang kayo sa aming ospina. Huwag kayong mag-alala dahil kami na ang bahala sa babayaran ninyo anuman ang karamdaman ninyo,” he reassured.

President Duterte also extended his personal greetings and best wishes for a Merry Christmas to the beneficiaries and their families through a phone call.

“Dasal ko na sana malutas ang mga problema ninyo. Sabagay nandito naman ang gobyerno. Ito ang administrasyon na para talaga sa mga tao. Sobrang natutuwa ako na nabigyan ako ng oportunidad na makausap kayo. Kasali ako sa pagdadasal ninyo. Malayo man ako, ‘di pa ako makapasyal dahil mayroon akong tinatrabaho, magkikita rin tayo,” the President said.

Go then thanked Balay Pahulayan Supervisor Dawn Banzon and the rest of the hospital staff for their dedication and commitment in bettering the health and lives of their patients.

As Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, Go has also supported many initiatives to improve the delivery of public services in Davao City. These include the construction or rehabilitation of multipurpose buildings and local roads in different barangays around the city, as well as the Philippine Red Cross Regional Office at the SPMC, Paquibato District Hall and Hope Day Care Center.

He also supported the construction of water systems in Barangays Acacia, Fatima, Mabuhay and San Isidro; construction or widening of a drainage canal in Barangays Bunawan Proper and Mintal; construction or rehabilitation of the drainage systems in Barangays Centro, Mudiang and Ubalde; construction of a flood control structure in Barangay 9-A and at the Datu Loho Creek; and construction of a new infectious diseases building and purchase of ambulance units for the SPMC.

The previous day, December 23, his staff provided relief to 500 solo parents and senior citizens in Barangay Tigatto. The senator likewise personally led the distribution of aid in Barangays Vicente Hizon Sr. and Panacan on December 21 and 20, respectively. Similar efforts were simultaneously conducted by his outreach teams in Barangays Governor Vicente Duterte, Wilfredo Aquino and Tibungco.

“Ang swerte natin dahil halos hindi tinamaan ang Davao City ng Bagyong Odette. Sobrang kawawa ang mga kababayan natin na tinamaan. Maiiyak ka talaga. Masakit sa dibdib ang makita ang mga kababayan mo na walang bahay at humihingi ng tulong dahil wala silang makain. Kaya pinadali ni Presidente Duterte ang pagtulong sa kanila. Ang maitutulong naman natin sa kanila ay magdasal tayo,” said Go.

“Kami ni Presidente Duterte ay patuloy kaming magseserbisyo sa inyong lahat. Dahil para sa amin, ang serbisyo sa tao ay serbisyo sa ating Panginoon. Maraming salamat muli, merry Christmas at happy New Year,” he ended.

PRRD, Go visit typhoon victims in Cebu and Palawan

As they both expressed their commitment to help communities recover and build back better

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go joined President Rodrigo Duterte and other government officials in Palawan and Cebu on Thursday, December 23 to express solidarity and bring aid to communities hit by Typhoon Odette.

They assured typhoon victims that the government is determined to maximize all its assets to expedite relief, recovery and rehabilitation efforts.

“Sa gitna ng mga kalamidad na ating nararanasan, nanawagan ako sa mga kapwa ko Pilipino na magkaisa para tulungan ang mga nasalanta ng Bagyong Odette,” Go appealed.

“Mahirap maramdaman ang saya ng Kapaskuhan kung alam nating may mga kababayan tayong naghihirap. Kaya wala kaming pahinga ni Pangulong Duterte at ng buong administrasyong ito sa pagsigurong makakarating ang tulong sa mga nangangailangan,” he added.

Together with Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, and other key officials, the President and Go met with leaders of Palawan for a situation briefing. Among those present were Governor Jose Alvarez, Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo Bayron, Taytay Mayor Christian Rodriguez, Roxas Mayor Dennis Sabando and Department of Social Welfare and Development Regional Director Fernando De Villa Jr.

The President also led the ceremonial turnover of relief goods and essential supplies at the old Puerto Princesa City Airport.

Soon after, they flew to Cebu City where President Duterte met local officials and led the distribution of food packs and the ceremonial turnover of financial assistance to typhoon victims at the Labangon Elementary School gymnasium.

“Para siguraduhin ang maayos na koordinasyon ng relief at rebuilding efforts, personal po nating tinututukan nitong mga nakaraang araw ang mga pinsalang naidulot ng Bagyong Odette. Sa mga pagbisitang ito, nakipagpulong din si Pangulong Duterte sa mga lokal na opisyal upang direktang marinig mula sa kanila ang kanilang mga pangangailangan at agarang matugunan ang mga ito,” Go narrated.

“Kasalukuyang ginagawa ng gobyerno ang lahat upang maibalik sa lalong madaling panahon ang supply ng kuryente, komunikasyon at tubig at maipagkaloob ang mga ayuda sa mga apektadong residente. Ngunit kailangan ang whole-of-nation approach para masiguro ang mabilis at tuluy-tuloy na pagbangon ng ating mga kababayan,” he explained further.

President Duterte and Senator Go assured the local communities that the whole government is mobilizing all its assets to help them recover and build back better. The President has also directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Coast Guard and other concerned uniformed personnel and frontliners to provide needed support to the affected communities.

“Ibinilin ng Pangulo na gamitin lahat ng assets ng gobyerno upang maibangon muli ang mga komunidad na apektado. Inaasahan niya na lahat ng ahensya ng gobyerno ay nakatutok sa recovery and rehabilitation efforts at walang oras o pondo na masasayang,” Go said.

To fast track all rescue, recovery, relief and rehabilitation efforts, the President issued on Tuesday, December 21, Proclamation No. 1267 which placed MIMAROPA, Regions VI (Western Visayas), VII (Central Visayas), VIII (Eastern Visayas), X, (Northern Mindanao) and XIII (Caraga) under a state of calamity. The declaration will remain in effect for a year until it is modified or rescinded.

In addition to hastening the delivery of government and humanitarian assistance, the proclamation also directs all concerned agencies to coordinate with, provide or augment the basic services and facilities of the affected areas. It likewise orders the law enforcement agencies, along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to undertake the necessary measures to ensure peace and order.

“Ipinaalala rin ng Pangulo na dapat mai-release na agad ang karagdagang pondo para sa mga LGUs upang makaresponde sila sa mga pangangailangan ng kanilang nasasakupan,” Go emphasized.

Two days after Typhoon Odette made landfall, Go and the President conducted aerial inspections of typhoon-ravaged areas in Visayas and Mindanao since Saturday and delivered aid to the affected families there. The two were on hand to personally give comfort and support residents of affected communities in Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Islands, Southern Leyte, Cebu, Bohol and Negros Island from December 18 to 20.

On December 22, they returned to Siargao Island and the Dinagat Islands just as promised to personally oversee relief and rehabilitation efforts.

“Mas nanaisin ko pang mag-Pasko kapiling ang mga biktima ng bagyo dahil ito naman ang tunay na diwa ng okasyong ito — ang pagtulong, pagdadalamhati at pakikipagkapwa-tao,” Go stressed.

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Israel Extends Assistance to Typhoon-Hit Areas in the Philippines

Israeli diplomats personally extended assistance to residents affected by Typhoon Odette that wreaked havoc to the Philippines. Initial donations were turn overed to Cebu and Bohol. 

Ambassador Ilan Fluss flew to Cebu to donate four solar energy systems, food packs, and hygiene kits to the typhoon-hit residents. The Israel Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines headed by Mr. Yoray Ofek also shared sacks of rice for Talisay, Cebu. Meanwhile, Deputy Chief of Mission Nir Balzam went to Bohol to turnover one unit of NUF portable water purifier, four solar energy systems, food packs, and hygiene kits. The turnover of donations in these areas were held on December 22.

“The State of Israel and the people of Israel are saddened to see the damage caused to human life, property, and resources caused by Typhoon Odette. We would like to express our sympathies and we would want the Filipinos to know that we stand by them. We are here to assist in every way that we can,” Ambassador Fluss said. The Israeli Ambassador also extended his condolences to the bereaved families of the casualties of the typhoon.

“The solar panels will be useful for areas which don’t have power supply yet. This technology is ready to use and low-maintenance,” Ambassador Fluss mentioned.

“Aside from the issues on power supply, we noticed that typhoon hit areas also experiences shortage of portable water. This Israeli-made portable water purifier will give them access to clean drinking water,” Mr. Balzam explained. 

Cebu and Bohol are two of the areas frequently visited by Israeli tourists in the Philippines. “I hope that they will recover soon and continue to feature the beauty and rich culture of these places,” Ambassador Fluss said. “It is important for a foreign diplomat like me to personally deliver this assistance to reach out to the communities and let them know that we are always ready to offer a helping hand,” he added.

Around 2,000 families received the food packs and hygiene kits. The embassy is also donating one unit of NUF portable water purifier, four solar energy systems, food packs, and hygiene kits to Siargao. 

Amid the crisis caused by Typhoon Odette, Bong Go renews push for passage of disaster resiliency measures

Amid the massive devastation left behind by Typhoon Odette, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go renewed his call for the legislature to pass a series of bills intended to improve the country’s resilience and capabilities to mitigate, respond to, and recover from natural disasters.

Go pointed out that the Philippines, which is hit by an average of 20 typhoons per year, consistently ranks among the most climate-vulnerable countries. It recently ranked fourth in the list of countries most affected by extreme weather events from 2000 to 2019 in the Global Climate Risk Index (2021) developed by Bonn-based think tank Germanwatch.

To mitigate the loss of life and property due to natural disasters, the senator specifically pushed for the passage of a long overdue measure that would institutionalize a clear chain of command, responsive mechanisms, and holistic and proactive approach to handling crisis situations.

Introduced in 2019, Go’s Senate Bill No. 205 consolidates all disaster-related agencies into the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR). Doing so would allow for a more concerted approach toward disaster risk reduction and the quicker and more efficient delivery of services during times of crises.

“Kung gaano kabilis at kadalas ang pagdating ng krisis sa ating bansa, dapat lamang na maging mas mabilis, maayos, at maaasahan ang serbisyo ng gobyerno upang maprotektahan ang kapakanan at buhay ng bawat Pilipino,” said the lawmaker.

“Isang aspeto na dapat natin maisaayos ay ang inter-agency coordination. Ito ang dahilan kung bakit matagal ko nang inirerekomenda at paulit-ulit ko nang sinasabi na dapat magkaroon ng isang departamento para mayroong timon na tagapamahala ng preparedness, response, and resilience mechanisms pagdating sa mga sakuna,” he added.

Go further noted that all disaster-related agencies, such as the Office of Civil Defense and Philippine Institute of Volcanology, are currently dispersed across different departments. Meanwhile, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council is relegated to serving as a coordinating body between the various agencies.

If enacted, the proposed department will be primarily responsible for ensuring communities are disaster-resilient, adaptive and safe in the long run. It will focus on three key result areas, namely: disaster risk reduction, disaster preparedness and response, and recovery and building forward better.

Aside from the DDR bill, Go likewise called for the passage of SBN 1228 which provides for the establishment of a permanent evacuation center in every province, city and municipality. The bill, which he filed in the same year and has since passed first reading, proposes a minimum set of requirements for every evacuation center, such as its location, accessibility, operation and amenities.

Each center will be directed to maintain a stockpile of essential supplies, such as food, water, clothing, medicine and hygiene packages. It will also have fully-equipped facilities to further ensure the well-being of every Filipino as they weather typhoons and other calamities.

To fast-track the affected families’ recovery, Go also appealed for the enactment of SBN 2393, otherwise called the Rental Housing Subsidy Act, to provide families displaced by natural and man-made disasters the necessary housing subsidies so they can relocate during the interim process of construction and have better access to the formal housing market.

“Tutulungan ng batas na ito na mabigyan ang mga mahihirap at informal settler-families natin ng disenteng buhay. Hangad ko ang suporta ng mga mambabatas dahil ang lahat ng ‘to ay para sa kabutihan ng Pilipino,” continued the senator.

“Asahan niyo na gagawin ko ang parte ko sa Senado upang isulong ang lahat ng mga nais nating makamit sa pamamagitan ng pagpasa ng mga makabuluhan at epektibong batas gaya nito,” he vowed.

Two days after Typhoon Odette made landfall, Go joined President Rodrigo Duterte to assess the situation in affected areas, give aid and comfort to victims, and help fast-track recovery efforts. They conducted inspections and situation briefings from December 18 to 20, particularly in most-hit communities such as Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Islands, Southern Leyte, Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental.

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