May 27 ------ The Department of Health has to justify before the Senate the P11.7-billion allocation it is requesting to finance contact tracing efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Tuesday. Sotto indicated that Baguio City under Mayor Benjamin Magalong managed to conduct effective contact tracing of suspected COVID-19 cases without seeking additional funds.
"DOH wants to spend P10B to hire contact tracers. Mayor Magalong's excellent Baguio contact tracing did not need an amount!" Sotto said on Twitter. "Correction: 11.7 Billion pesos pala!" he added. Last week, Health Secretary Francisco Duque pegged the financial requirement to boost the country's contact tracing efforts at P11.7 billion. "'Yung contact tracers at 1:800 population, we will be needing about 130,000 and assuming we pay them each P30,000 a month... and we keep them to do contact tracing for at least three months, all told, the budget for that is about P11.7 billion," he said in a Senate hearing. Asked if the Senate would be willing to grant the said budget request, Sotto said: "We must ask them to justify."
Earlier in the day, Magalong presented during the Malacanang press briefing Baguio City’s contact tracing system which is considered as one of the best in the country. He said the city was using cognitive interviews, a GIS platform, and analytical tools to conduct efficient contact tracing of people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon proposed to mobilize around 400,000 barangay health workers and parent-leaders from the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) to expedite contact tracing in the country.
"I propose that we assemble and activate existing government-organized and accredited groups. We can easily tap the over 200,000 Barangay Health Workers (BHWs), 200,000 parent-leaders from the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program and members of DSWD-accredited Civil Society Organizations," Drilon said in a letter sent to Duque. He underscored that this aspect must be improved before the government eases the strict community quarantines, especially in Metro Manila where over 9,000 out of the more than 14,000 cases in the country were recorded.
"Our objective to prevent the virus from spreading is based on our ability to efficiently identify the infected and notify those he or she has made contact with. Hence, contact tracing is a must and should never be neglected," Drilon said.