Economic team wants LGUs to take on hospital funding

THE DEPARTMENTS of Finance and Budget and Management (DBM) said they do not support taking back budget responsibility for public hospitals, citing a Supreme Court devolution ruling that allocated more funds to local government units (LGUs).

The issue arose during a budget briefing at the Senate Wednesday, in which Senator Franklin M. Drilon noted “dozens” of pending bills aiming to “re-nationalize” several hospitals, in which the National Government once again becomes responsible for funding them instead of LGUs.

The National Government will devolve some of its functions to LGUs starting next year, mainly public services, in response to the Supreme Court Mandanas ruling, which expanded LGUs’ share of national taxes.

“This effort to address our deficit as a result of the Mandanas ruling, is not being served by the fact that there are hospitals which are now in the LGU budget,” Mr. Drilon said.

“We object to the re-nationalization,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told the legislators.

“There’s another solution: the different provinces can contribute to the regional hospitals in accordance with the population of their people going to that hospital,” he added.

He said LGUs can pay for their residents that are admitted to public hospitals in other provinces, cities or municipalities.

Budget Undersecretary and Officer-in-Charge Tina Rose Marie L. Canda said the DBM also rejects the re-nationalization of hospitals due to the fiscal pressures that may ensue.

“We’re not recommending re-nationalization of these hospitals as much as possible,” she added.

Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara said the economic team should come up with a unified position on devolution plans.

Mr. Dominguez said the two state-run banks, Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines have credit facilities to support infrastructure projects of LGUs, but they are barred by law from lending for operating expenses, and other items like the purchase of vaccines. — Beatrice M. Laforga

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