Nograles questions ‘zero budget’ for hospitalization expense, medical facility upgrade for AFP

Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles has questioned the proposed P221 Billion budget of the Department of National Defense (DND) for receiving zero allocation for the acquisition of the much needed medical equipment for its hospitals and hospitalization expense for its personnel and veterans.
In last Wednesday’s budget briefing before the House Committee on Appropriations for the 2022 DND budget, Nograles questioned why the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) presented a zero allocation for the hospitalization of DND personnel,  compared to a budget of P1.786 Billion last year. 
Nograles also observed that the VMMC has requested for the acquisition of a linear accelerator machine worth P300 Million to replace its decrepit cobalt-60 teletherapy machine and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine worth P90 Million. It has also asked P36 Million for the construction of an endoscopy center with equipage; P29 Million for the renovation of the Department of Radiology and Radiotherapy and P35 Million for the renovation and upgrade of its pulmonary intensive care unit (PICU). 
The DBM also scrapped the VMMC request and only provided a footnote that it should be covered by profits earned from its golf course which, according to its director Dr. Dominador Chiong only amounts to a fraction of PHP2 Million a year. 
He noted that the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), both those in the active and the reserved service and even the Constitutionally protected Veterans are among the most exposed to the lingering threat of the Covid-19 so it does not make any sense that the DBM gave them zero budget for hospitalization and zero budget for medical equipment acquisition.
“I could not understand why there is zero budget for Hospitalization Expenses and new equipment for any of the hospitals for soldiers and veterans. Sa daming pera, sana naman huwag kalimutan ang dumedepensa sa atin. They are not bulletproof, they are not covid-proof, and we are bound by the Constitution to help and honor them,” Nograles said.
“Pandemic ngayon at ang pinaka-exposed ay ang ating Armed Forces. Not just our enlisted personnel but also our reservists who have been called to active duty especially during the heat of the pandemic. We are in a state of emergency. Our Armed Forces is called to action more on domestic and pandemic problems yet we are not taking care of our men and women and our veterans,” Nograles lamented.
Pointing out that the DBM may have overlooked the situation that resulted in these budget cuts,  Nograles asked Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to submit to Congress a revised budget which would include allocations needed for its hospitals and the medical expenses of its personnel.
He said Congress could look for funds to cover the budget gap for the medical needs of the AFP personnel through possible budget realignments.
“May ask respectfully to the DND to submit to the committee for its consideration, ano ang mga capital expenses niyo para sa mga hospitalization. Kung saan-saang base ang pinupuntahan ko, mga infirmary, mga station hospitals, kawawa ang ating mga sundalo at kanilang mga dependents, ” Nograles said.
Nograles also hopes that whatever Congressional budgetary support will not be vetoed or, worse, subjected to “for later release” by the DBM. ###