(File photo)

MANILA – The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Thursday promised to look for new funding sources for the disbursement of benefits and allowances of health workers involved in the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response.

This was after Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman acknowledged the difficulty of approving the Department of Health's (DOH) future requests for additional funds for health care workers (HCWs) and non-HCWs' emergency allowances, considering that the government currently has a "small budget."

"We will try to allocate funding," Pangandaman said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel's Headstart, when asked if the government has enough funds to grant the DOH's possible requests to release additional budget for medical front-liners' benefits.

"As of now po, parang medyo negative na po tayo sa ating mga balanse (we somehow have a negative balance) but we will try. We will try to get from our unprogrammed appropriations. I think I will have to check with the DOF (Department of Finance) and our Treasury if there are additional revenues po from the national government," she added.

The DBM on Wednesday approved the release of about PHP11.5 billion for the distribution of One Covid-19 Allowance (OCA) or Health Emergency Allowance (HEA) claims to more than 1.6 million eligible recipients from public and private health facilities.

On Monday, the DBM also granted the DOH's request to release PHP1.04 billion, which will be earmarked for the distribution of the special risk allowance (SRA) of 55,211 public and private health workers.

However, the DOH still needs about PHP64 billion in back pay for health workers, covering June to December 2021.

Pangandaman said the DBM has yet to receive the DOH's request for the release of the PHP64 billion budget.

"What we released are the only requests that we have gotten from the Department of Health. We don't have the request yet from the Department of Health 'yung PHP64 billion po na sinasabi nila (with regard to the PHP64 billion it is saying)," she said.

She, however, assured that on top of the PHP19 billion allotted for health workers' allowances for 2023, about PHP38.9 billion in unprogrammed appropriations could be tapped to augment funds for their emergency allowances.

"For 2023, what we have is under unprogrammed appropriations. We also appropriated under PHP38.9 billion po for the purpose. It's under unprogrammed funds," Pangandaman said.

Republic Act (RA) 11712 or the Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances for Health Care Workers Act replaces the SRA with the One Covid-19 Allowance, which is now called Health Emergency Allowance.

Under RA 11712, health workers who are at high risk for Covid-19 exposure will get PHP9,000 monthly, while those who are deployed to moderate- and low-risk areas will receive a monthly benefit of PHP6,000 and PHP3,000, respectively. (PNA)