Health group lauds President Duterte’s promise to provide universal health care to all Filipinos

MANILA — HealthJustice Philippines, a public health policy think tank and advocacy group active in tobacco control and health promotion, has lauded the promise of President Rodrigo R. Duterte in his first State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) that health insurance coverage will be provided for everyone.

“To strengthen the delivery of social services, the government will intensify its protection programs, so it can use its resources, expertise to make a dent in the country’s poverty levels. What we want is genuinely to reduce the vulnerabilities of our people, build resiliency and empower individuals, and families and communities,” President Duterte said in his maiden speech before a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City on Monday afternoon.

“The government will also provide universal health insurance for all Filipinos. Isali na lang natin sa PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corporation)… The professional competence and operational capabilities of government hospitals and health facilities will be strengthened,” he added.

“It is very encouraging to hear that our President is keen on protecting our people’s right to health. We are one with him in working towards a country where even the poorest of the poor and those who live in far-flung areas will not be deprived of medical care,” said Atty. Irene Reyes, managing director of HealthJustice Philippines.

“President Duterte has made it clear that health promotion and tobacco control are his priorities. We are looking forward to hearing more of the good things he has in mind for the health of the Filipino people,” Reyes added.

The Philippines, along with 188 other countries, signed in 2000 the Millennium Declaration, the aims of which are further spelled out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Three of the MDGs, namely Nos. 4, 5 and 6, are health-related and respectively provide that the signatories “Reduce child mortality,” “Improve maternal health,” and “Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.”

Reyes recalled that the Universal Health Care or “Kalusugang Pangkalahatan” program was one of the flagship programs of the previous administration.

Republic Act No. 10645 mandating automatic health coverage to senior citizens was signed by former President Benigno S. Aquino III in 2014. Leilani Junio/ PNA/