DILG says still waiting for budget to hire 50,000 contact tracers

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 10 2020 01:22 PM

Health workers administer swab testing for the coronavirus to frontliners and residents at the San Juan Elementary School Gym in San Juan City on May 12, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Friday it has yet to receive funding for the hiring of some 50,000 contact tracers as the country continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the agency aims to double the current 50,000 contact tracers spread throughout the country but it has yet to receive funding to do so.

"Inaantay pa rin po namin hanggang sa ngayon ang abiso mula sa Department of Budget and Management kung kailan po kami makapapag-hire ng karagdagang mga contact tracers," he said in a virtual press briefing.

(We are still waiting for the advisory of the Department of Budget and Management on when we could start hiring additional contact tracers.)

"Ang target po sana ng DILG ay makapag-hire kami before the end of the month," he added.

(We were hoping to do the hiring before the end of the month.)

The Department of Health earlier said that funding is among the issues as to why the government could not easily hire many contact tracers. The World Health Organization’s ideal ratio for contact tracers is one for every 800 individuals in a community. 

“Bakit hindi pa tayo makapag-hire ng napakadami? I think part of the issue would be the funding. Kasi di ba, nu’ng kinompute natin ’yan, malaking pera ang kailangan mo para ma-hire mo for at least 3 months,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on June 30.

(Why are we not able to hire many? I think part of the issue would be the funding. Because when we computed, we saw that we need a lot of money to hire them for 3 months.)

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado has yet to respond to ABS-CBN News' query about the funding for the hiring of contact tracers. But earlier this week, he assured the public that the country has enough funds to respond to the pandemic.

"Totoo po na may sapat na pondo ang pamahalan upang tugunan at labanan ang COVID-19 pandemic at ito nga ay napatunayan nung pinasa ng kongreso ang Bayanihan to Heal as One Act," Avisado said in a forum Wednesday.

(It's true that the country has enough funds to respond and fight the COVID-19 pandemic. This was proven when Congress passed the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.)

Graduates of medical-allied sciences, criminology, and similar courses will be prioritized in the hiring of contact tracers, Malaya said.

"Kinakailangan po natin itong mga contact tracers na ito para madeploy na natin agad especially doon sa mga lugar na mayroong tumataas ang COVID-19 positive patients," he said.

(We need to hire the contact tracers so they can immediately be deployed in areas where there is a rising number of COVID-19 positive patients.)