THE Senate version of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) aims to expand the government’s free medicines for the poor.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, on Friday said Senate Bill (SB) 1592 also seeks to fund construction of more public hospitals in remote areas.
“Poor Filipinos still face the problem of limited access to low-cost, safe and quality essential medicines,” according to Angara, author and sponsor of SB 1592.
“It is our duty to make essential health services available to all Filipinos, giving priority to the needs of underprivileged patients,” the senator said.
Congress is set to resume session on November 13 after a month-long break.
But the Senate opted to adjust the resumption to November 16 since its legislative work would be affected by the country’s hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit from November 13 to 15.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said the chamber would tackle Train amendments on November 23 to 24, possibly passing the proposed tax reform law before the end of the month.
Angara noted that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has 11 partner hospitals that are implementing the Libreng Gamot Para sa Masa Program (Lingap), which entitles poor patients to free medicine assistance.
The free medicine program is now available at the Philippine General Hospital, Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital, East Avenue Medical Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, Philippine Children’s Hospital, and San Lazaro Hospital–all in the National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila); Jose B. Lingad Memorial Hospital in San Fernando, Pampanga; Western Visayas Medical Center in Iloilo City; Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City; Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City; and Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum City.
According to the DSWD, approximately 13,000 indigent patients have already benefited from the program.
“It is our hope that more poor Filipinos would benefit from free medicines,” Angara said.
He cited a World Health Organization study, which showed that major causes of deaths in low-income countries can be treated effectively with simple essential medicines.
Angara also authored SB 972 mandating all government district hospitals, local health units and barangay (village) health centers in all cities and municipalities to provide free medicines for the poor.
BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO