Playing with Fire

Malasakit Center now in Dagupan

By Gonzalo Duque

AS I write my column today (Friday), the Malasakit Center of Region 1 Medical Center  headed by Director Dr. Roland Joseph Mejia, was just opened with my good friend, former Special Assistant to the President Bong Go dropping by to greet the crowd while enroute to our Lyceum-Northwestern University.

The activity was also graced by Mayor Belen Fernandez and other Dagupan City officials.

You know, this idea of establishing a one-stop shop for our indigent patients in government hospitals was started by Bong Go, who noted that indigent patients who cannot foot the bill for their hospitalization have yet to beg for help from various agencies that are oftentimes far from each other.

With the Malasakit Center at R1MC, indigents from Dagupan and Pangasinan needing medical help will no longer knock on the  doors of different government agencies since they are already located in the same hospital under one roof, manned by competent people tasked to decide on the spot.

These help agencies include  the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), Department of Social Services and Development (DSWD), Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

This good idea, by the way, is in line with the program of universal health care, where every citizen will be afforded the chance to have medical care irrespective of their status in life.

With the Universal Health Care also signed into law by PRRD, our very impoverished people will now have access to medical care, a benefit which they have never experienced before under any administration.

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Also last Wednesday, the revised charter of the Social Security System (Republic Act No. 8282) was signed into law, too, by President Rodrigo Duterte. Under the said revised charter, SSS now has the power to reduce the penalty of three percent imposed on delinquent employers to two percent to encourage their settlement of penalties.

At the same time, Congress has already set the rate of contribution increases of workers to 1 percent every year until 2025, so the fund life of the SSS will be extended up to 2042. With the said increases, several other benefits like unemployment benefits will be given to separated employees.

With the passage of the Revised SSS Charter, the good news is the additional P1,000 pension being sought by retirees covered by the system can be given. If you will recall, the first P1,000 or one-half of the P2,000 demanded by the pensioners for them to make both ends meet, was already given to them way back. 

Many are also hoping that the law on maternity benefits will be increased but at the moment, Congress is still finding the necessary source of fund to bankroll such benefits that would most likely come from the General Appropriations Act of 2019.

We thank Senator Richard Gordon and Congressman Mark Go of Baguio, a very dear friend, who shepherded the amended SSS charter. We also thank PRRD who understood that pension or retirement funds are savings of the employees/members of SSS.

But we believe that any benefit given to pensioners or members should be carefully studied because at the end of the day, it will be the fund life of the members that will suffer.

For this, we will start going around the country for the enactment of Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the revised SSS charter. We will conduct public hearings  starting March 1, 2019 in Luzon (particularly Metro Manila), Visayas and Mindanao.

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We are glad to know that Dagupan under Mayor Belen Fernandez is being eyed by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) under Director General Charito Plaza to become the newest economic zone in the country specializing on information technology.

We were informed that among the recommended sites for economic zones in Pangasinan, Dagupan is in its most advance stage as only a little requirement needs to be complied with before it gets a stamp of approval from the PEZA board.

According to DG Plaza, only a one-hectare land is needed in Dagupan to develop an IT Park that will soon employ hundreds if not thousands of IT graduates from local colleges and universities in the city.

Another feather on the cap of Mayor Belen!

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