Officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) reportedly demand a 10-percent cut from patients’ hospital bills, Special Envoy to China Mon Tulfo has claimed.

SOP manghingi! Philhealth officials demanding 10% cut from patients’ bills- Mon Tulfo

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Officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) reportedly demand a 10-percent cut from patients’ hospital bills, Special Envoy to China Mon Tulfo has claimed.

In his January 16 column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Tulfo said the 10-percent cut is supposedly Philhealth’s “commission” from the hospital.

“An administrator in a private hospital in Metro Manila told me that PhilHealth executives demand 10 percent of the patient’s hospital and medical bills,” Tulfo wrote.

“And they demand the 10-percent advance commission,” he added, quoting a hospital administrator who asked not to be named.

Graft charges were recently filed against former Philhealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales and 13 others before the Office of the Ombudsman alleged irregularities in the advance release of funds to hospitals.

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Werpa si Eba! Lord Velasco recognizes women’s role in nation building

By Billy Begas

Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco pays tribute to all Filipina for their pivotal role in nation-building even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Allow me to recognize all the strong, empowered and empowering women of the House. Kinaya at kinakaya natin ang laban sa pandemya because you kept everything steady here at work even as you faced the challenges with your families at home,” said Velasco.

At present, women make up 48 percent of the House workforce.

Records from the chamber’s Human Resource Management Service show that out of the 4,037 members and employees of the House, 1,941 are women. Of which, 85 are legislators, 649 are Secretariat employees, 940 are congressional staff members, and 267 are co-terminus and contractual workers.

The House has eight female deputy speakers namely Evelina Escudero (Sorsogon), Loren Legarda (Antique), Bernadette Herrera (Bagong Henerasyon party-list), Kristine Singson-Meehan (Ilocos Sur), Divina Grace Yu (Zamboanga del Sur), Camille Villar (Las Piñas City), Rose Marie Arenas (Pangasinan), and Vilma Santos-Recto (Batangas).

After Velasco’s election as Speaker in October 2020, the House elected a female Secretary General—Atty. Jocelia Bighani Sipin.

Sipin spearheaded the House Secretariat through a period of transition from October 12 to November 18 last year. She is currently the Deputy Secretary General assigned at the Office of the Speaker.

On March 8, female lawmakers will take full control of the plenary session as part of the annual tradition in the legislative chamber to mark the National Women’s Month and the International Women’s Day.

The all-women session will be led by Deputy Speaker Arenas, president of the Association of Women Legislators Foundation Inc. of the 18th Congress.

The plenary is set to adopt resolutions congratulating two Filipino-American appointees of United States President Joe Biden—Gloria Steele and Camille Calimlim Touton.

Para ‘di makapasok ASF! Salceda tells DA, BOC: Inspect imported meat

By Billy Begas

House Committee on Ways and Means Chairperson Joey Salceda has asked the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to allow the Department of Agriculture (DA) personnel to inspect meat imports into the Philippines, to help prevent the further spread of African Swine Fever.

Salceda said he will send a formal request to Finance Sec. Sonny Dominguez to streamline all BOC processes and allow DA to inspect meat products.

Dominguez heads the Economic Development Cluster of the Duterte Cabinet.

“From a strategic point of view, we need to protect the domestic supply from further decline due to ASF, so sanitizing imports is very important,” the Albay solon said.

Importation is among the solutions of the government to bring down the prices of pork products.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Friday that the elevated February 2021 inflation was due to the increase in meat prices, which had an inflation rate of 20.7% in February 2021 from 17.1% in January 2021.

February 2021 inflation was 4.7%, the highest in 26 months, during the height of the rice price crisis.

“It’s so obvious that we have significant food supply vulnerabilities. The solutions will no longer be monetary or regulatory. A price ceiling won’t work. Interest rate adjustments won’t work. Because the problem is really that there isn’t enough food for our growing population,” Salceda explained.

He said the government has no choice but to import while modernizing the agricultural sector to increase food production.

“We are now seeing the problem with merely relying on imports for one’s food security policy. It can carry biohazards that affect domestic industry. So, while imports are cheaper per se, there are implicit costs, such as biosecurity and enforcement that we used to not take into account. We must have a more holistic view of importation versus domestic food production. Imports are not always the answer,” he added.

Salceda said the government agencies should also look out for agricultural smuggling that harms local industry and deprive the government of the needed revenue.

Anong ginagawa ng PEZA? Salceda: Gov’t losing P1T yearly due to smuggling in ecozones

By Billy Begas

House Committee on Ways and Means chairperson Joey Salceda said the government could be losing P1 trillion in annual revenue due to smuggling and tax abuses in economic zones.

Salceda urged the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and other investment promotion agencies with freeport privileges to take smuggling enforcement seriously.

Based on the information gathered by the Committee, Salceda said ecozones are becoming conduits for big-time smuggling.

Salceda said that in 2017, the government gave away P504 billion in tax incentives in ecozones. If you add the lost revenue due to smuggling it increases to P695 billion. With higher excise taxes on fuel, cigarettes, and sugar-sweetened beverages the present figure will be very close to P1 trillion of revenue lost annually.

“Ecozones are the country’s trillion-peso blackhole. It’s where a third of government revenues go to disappear. The bleeding has to stop,” said Salceda.

Last week, Salceda’s committee held hearings on tobacco illicit trade and agricultural product smuggling made easier by ecozone privileges.

Salceda said some P30 billion is lost annually due to tobacco smuggling. For fuel, the estimated foregone revenue from 2010 to 2019 is P357 billion.

“We keep watching BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) and BOC (Bureau of Customs) on smuggling, but we never watch freeport zones. In Clark, it’s so easy to get cigarettes that do not have tax stamps. It’s Subic, throngs of would-be agents of smuggled fuel wait every day outside the zone to negotiate. The freeports are outside customs territory, so BOC’s ability to enforce and do surveillance inside is extremely limited. PEZA has its own police. They should do better,” said Salceda.

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