MANILA, JULY 23, 2008
(STAR) By Marvin Sy - President Arroyo formally launched the government’s P500-million program to upgrade the country’s public hospitals.

The President named the Dinaig Municipal Hospital in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao as the first to be upgraded under the program.

Mrs. Arroyo personally visited the hospital yesterday as she formally launched the program before proceeding to the Cabinet meeting at Camp Siongco.

Mrs. Arroyo said the program represents the second phase of the administration’s subsidy program for various sectors aimed at improving the condition of the poor from the revenues collected from the value added tax (VAT) on oil.

She said the hospital would be provided with funds for the purchase of X-ray machines, laboratory diagnostic equipment, and construction of an operating room to spruce up the facility.

The Dinaig town hospital is considered a primary hospital that provides basic preventive medical care and services. Under the program, the town hospital will be upgraded to a secondary hospital to provide simple surgery and more comprehensive medical services.

Mrs. Arroyo said the Dinaig hospital would be upgraded to accommodate more patients. This would also take away the cost of transporting patients needing more immediate medical attention.

She said the Dinaig Hospital was chosen as the first to be upgraded because it is situated in one of the priority provinces in terms of poverty incidence.

“You are among our priority provinces, which would be given more services in order to bring down poverty,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

The government has decided to forgo its target of attaining a balanced budget this year after Mrs. Arroyo decided to spend more on social welfare programs to help the poor cope with the higher cost of food and fuel brought about by rising global prices.

Mrs. Arroyo pointed out the funds used by the government to provide the subsidies came from the revenues collected on the VAT on oil.

The Department of Finance projects the excess revenues from the VAT on oil to reach P18 billion this year as the price of oil in the world market has gone up to record levels since the start of the year.

In the first half of the year, the government spent P4 billion on subsidies, including giving P500 to all residents who used up to 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity in May.

The transport sector was also provided with P1 billion to help them convert their engines to use of bio-fuels or liquefied petroleum gas instead of diesel or gasoline.

Another P4 billion has been programmed for the second half of the year.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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