GOVERNMENT nurses can expect next year an increase in their monthly take-home pays after senators yesterday approved the P3.1 billion appropriation needed to upgrade the salaries of nurses.
The Senate adopted the amendment made by Senators Panfilo Lacson, Ralph Recto, Christopher Go, and Richard Gordon when it approved on final reading its version of the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020.
The Senate version of the national budget bill now includes a special provision increasing the base pay for government nurses to Salary Grade 15, or P30,531 a month, in compliance to the Supreme Court decision setting the basic salary for the health workers.
“The implementation of the salary adjustment shall take effect when the decision of the Supreme Court had become final and executory, but not earlier than the start of Fiscal Year 2020,” the special provision stated.
In a statement, Lacson said the amount needed to fund the implementation of the SC decision shall be sourced from appropriations for staffing modifications and upgrading of salaries under the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund (MPBF).
During the interpellation for the Department of Health’s 2020 budget last November 19, Lacson said that P3.173 billion is needed for the salary upgrade. “We can introduce a special provision and source the P3 billion from the P12.469 billion under that particular item (MPBF),” Lacson said.
He added as the funds are already under the MPBF, government nurses need not wait for the passage of another legislation or until funds are made available by the Department of Budget and Management.
“They don’t have to wait six months or another year. By January, once we enact the GAA for 2020, their salary upgrade nila is already taken care of,” Lacson said.
Gordon said nurses working in government-run and managed hospitals and health institutions deserve the pay increase.
“For a long time, the nurses of the country have been clamoring for the adjustment of their salaries,” Gordon said, adding: “They are given low paying jobs with no benefits, and hospitals have taken advantage of this system in a way that these hospitals become stepping stones for nurses to work abroad.”
Sen. Christopher Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, said the long-overdue salary upgrade will be implemented early next year.
Go also thanked the Senate finance committee for the increase in the budget of PhilHealth, which he said will be a big help in the implementation of the universal health care law that guarantees that all Filipinos have equitable access to quality and affordable health care.
With sufficient funds for the health sector, Go urged the Department of Health (DOH) and PhilHealth to “ensure judicious and prudent use of public funds” as he expressed trust and confidence that the government agencies involved will institute reforms to improve its efficiency in spending their funds.
Go also said that he will prioritize the passage of a new Salary Standardization Law (SSL) which will provide for an increase in the current salaries of all government workers.
Senate president pro tempore Ralph Recto thanked Sen. Juan Edgardo Anagara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, for including in the Senate committee report the suggestion to infuse P7.4 billion for DOH programs.
“The result is that the 17,293 nurses deployed this year will stay on. The ‘endo’ (end of contract) of 7,107 nurses has been averted. Also, the contracts of 597 medical technologists and 202 dentists will be renewed. Under the original DOH budget, not one of them will be rehired next year,” Recto said.
Meanwhile, members of the bicameral conference committee on the proposed 2020 budget are set to hold their first meeting today to settle differences in their respective versions of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
In a memorandum sent to the 15-man Senate panel, Arturo Mojica Jr., Senate finance committee legislative secretary, said the first bicameral meeting at 10 a.m. will be held at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City.
The Senate bicameral panel members include Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Panfilo Lacson, Cynthia Villar, Pia Cayetano, Sherwin Gatchalian, Christopher Go, Richard Gordon, Imee Marcos, Joel Villanueva, Risa Hontiveros, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto, and Franklin Drilon.
The Senate on Wednesday afternoon passed on second and third reading the P4.1-trillion proposed national budget with a vote of 22-0. Only Senators Emmanuel Pacquiao and Leila de Lima did not cast their votes.
After the passage of the proposed budget, the Senate declared it will have no work schedules from December 2 to 6, and will resume sessions on December 9.
Senate majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the no-work schedule was due to the attendance of the 15-man Senate panel to the bicam, which will lead to a “no quorum at the Senate” and in anticipation of the expected clogged roads leading to the Senate because of the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
“That why the (Senate) leadership decided that we just adjourn until the 9th (of December),” Zubiri said.
Angara said the Senate introduced a number of pther institutional amendments to the proposed budgets for education, health and nutrition, social welfare, housing and labor; agriculture and food security, national security, justice, peace and order; infrastructure development, trade and tourism, science and technology innovations, and culture and sports.
Angara said the other agencies which were proposed to have additional budgets were Congress, Office of the Vice President, Department of Finance, Department of Foreign Affairs, Cooperative Development Authority, Credit Information Corporation, Development Academy of the Philippines, among others.