By Mario Casayuran
Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III on Tuesday said the Department of Health (DOH) has begun working with its foreign development partners for a computer system to keep track of the location of billions of pesos worth of goods the agency has purchased or will be purchasing.
The move followed revelations that there were originally P18 billion worth of DOH-purchased medicines “rotting” in its warehouses. Of these, some P3 billion worth of medicines remain in the DOH warehouses, Duque told Senate reporters after trying to defend the proposed P160.148 billion budget of the DOH for 2020 before the Senate sub-committee F chaired by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” T. Go.
The proposed DOH budget is P9.3 billion lower than its current P169.4 billion budget as a result of a reduction in its capital outlay.
The DOH, according to Duque, has P19 billion set aside for the purchase of medicines in the next fiscal year.
Duque identified the DOH partners like the United Nations Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Their efforts would cover the partial computerization of the DOH program, he explained.
He said WHO is “helping with the terms of reference for hiring or procuring a computerization automation system for the management for our procurement supply chain management.” This includes our drugs, commodities, medicines, and vaccines, he added.
During the hearing, Go asked the DOH leadership not to allow drugs to rot since there are poor Filipinos who line up at health centers for rare medicines that government has bought for them.
“Ayusin ang distribution system niyo (Keep your distribution system in order),” he said.
Senator Cynthia A. Villar bewailed the weak inventory management process at the DOH that led to the reduction in the efficacy of these drugs.
She said DOH must already have a list of drugs to be purchased in its proposed 2020 budget.
Villar also supported the call of Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” M. Angara for the DOH to give its funds to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for the construction of toilets and septic tanks, particularly in Metro Manila, a responsibility the DOH miserably failed to do.
Villar said the DOH has promised to complete this program involving the construction of 3.5 million toilets in 10 years costing P350 million a year but the performance of DOH leaves much to be desired.
“Nalalaboan ako sa inyo (I don’t see any clear direction),” Villar said in apparent exasperation.
“Intolerable,” Villar said after stating that she spent her own money for toilets and septic tanks for residents of Baseco compound near Manila’s South Harbor, a responsibility the DOH should have done.
This is the reason Manila Bay is a cesspool because people in the area practice “open defecation” because they do not have toilets.
She estimated that there are seven Filipinos who opt to defecate openly for lack of toilet facilities.