Ways and Means Committee passes SGMA bill on OFWs Hospital creation

The House Committee on Ways and Means chaired by Rep. Estrellita Suansing (1st District, Nueva Ecija) on Tuesday approved House Bill No. 9194, which seeks to establish the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) Hospital which will promote the OFWs well-being in recognition of their importance and contribution to economic development and nation-building.

The approval by the Committee on Ways and Means came a day after the Committees on Health and on Appropriations passed HB 9194.

In a meeting presided by Committee on Ways and Means Vice Chairperson Rep. Lianda Bolilia (4th District, Batangas), the panel approved HB 9194, principally authored by former President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which was fully supported by House Members and resource persons.

Speaker Arroyo explained to the panel that representatives from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) were present during the approval of the bill in the Committee on Health and they posed no objection, particularly on its tax provision.

Department of Finance Director for Research and Information Office Juvy Danofrata said the tax provision of the bill embraces the standard exemption under the Tax Code and the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA). “Everything here is already provided in the Tax Code and the CMTA,” she said.

Deputy Administrator Josefino Torres of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) agreed with its passage because the tax provision shall “enjoin donors to come forward to support the translation of the bill to real terms.”

As Executive Director Donaldo Boo of the National Tax Research Center proposed to reword the tax provision for uniformity and better implementation, Deputy Speaker Evelina Escudero moved for its amendment to read as follows: “All grants, requests, endowments, donations and contributions made to the OFW Hospital to be used actually, directly and exclusively by the Hospital shall be exempt from donor’s tax and the same shall be considered as allowable deduction from the gross income of the donor, in accordance with the provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 as amended, and the importation of equipment, machineries and spare parts, which are used solely and exclusively for the operations of the Hospital, and are not available locally, shall be exempt from value-added tax and Customs Duty.”

The measure recognizes that the State is mandated to protect and promote the right to health of the Filipino people and to instill health consciousness among them.

To this end, the Philippine Government shall adopt integrated and comprehensive approach to health development, and protect the interest and promote the well-being of OFWs as recognition of their importance and contribution on economic development and nation building.

“Despite improvements in occupational health and safety worldwide, OFWs suffer from a growing list of physical and mental health problems due to risks associated with the nature of their employments…The country needs to do more, especially in paving better access, and in providing higher quality of healthcare,” said Speaker Arroyo.

Through the bill, the hospital shall be established with at least tertiary level of care. It shall be developed consistent with the health care needs of the OFWs and their dependents.

The Department of Health (DOH) shall then be directed to undertake the full administrative and technical supervision of the Hospital.

As provided in the measure, the Hospital shall pursue the following main objectives: (a) provide comprehensive health care services; (b) conduct medical examinations to ensure the physical and mental capability of would-be overseas contract workers; (c) serve as primary referral hospital for repatriated OFWs who need medical assistance; (d) set up systems that will effectively monitor the condition of patients and to generate relevant health information for policy formulation; and (e) participate in the health care provider networks and arrangements relative to the implementation of Republic Act No. 11223 or the “Universal Health Care Act.”

In addition, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)-OWWA shall also be tasked to strengthen its existing health care benefits and medical assistance programs to provide subsidies to the Hospital for qualified OFWs and legal dependent patients.

During the deliberations, Roderick Napulen, Statistician-Development Management Officer of the Department of Health (DOH) National Center for Health Facility Development, expressed the DOH’s appreciation for Speaker Arroyo for sponsoring the OFW Hospital.

Other House Members who took part in the hearing were Reps. Joey Sarte Salceda (2nd District, Albay), Bayani Fernando (1st District, Marikina City), and Peter John Calderon (7th District, Cebu).| Molie Gonzales, News and Documentation Section-Press and Public Affairs Bureau/ House of Representatives of the Philippines