The late president Ferdinand Marcos laid the legal framework of privatization through Presidential Decree 2029 and 2080 and legalizing the sale of Welfareville Property including the Mental Hospital through Republic Act 5260. During her term, president Corazon Aquino prepared the organizational mechanism by setting up the Committee on Privatization (COP) and the Asset Privatization Trust (APT). The Build-Operate and Transfer Law, allowing the private sector to access official development aid was enacted during her term.
Privatization as a national government program and policy became viral in 1997 when the Ramos’ administration moved vigorously to privatize public health care services through the outright sale of four government-owned and controlled corporations or GOCC hospitals. But the short-lived two-year term of the Estrada administration upstaged Ramos’ via the Health Sector Reform Agenda and Executive Order 102. EO 102 transformed the functions of the Department of Health from a direct services provider to a mere regulator and monitor of services. The said EO resulted to massive layoff of DOH employees and dissolution of health programs such as the Malaria and Leprosy Control. Corporatization is the catch-word for privatization during Gloria Arroyos’ term. The Arroyo government pushed for the plan to corporatize 68 public hospitals under the Department of Health.
However, the Aquino government is surpassing all its predecessors in its aggressiveness to privatize government hospitals and public health care services via the Aquino Health Agenda’s “Universal Health Care for All” which is but a continuation of the IMF-WB recipes of Health Sector Reform Agenda and the FourMula One for Health. The Universal Health Care or Kalusugan Pangkalahatan boasts of the Public-Private Partnership Program or PPP and the Philippine Health Insurance Program as its two main pillars.
With Aquino’s PPP, government hospitals such as the Philippine Orthopedic Hospitals, San Lazaro Hospital, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicines, the Eversley Child Sanitariam in Metro Cebu and 21 more regional hospitals are now up for millions-worth bid to big private businesses to help in “modernizing and improving facilities and services” with the promised return of investment in “revenue sharing, lease fee per treatment for diagnostic equipment. In the same vein, 26 government hospitals are being fast-track for “corporatization”. Very recently, the DOH announced the plan to phase out the charity wards of public hospitals and replace them with PhilHealth wards.
Privatization is a part of the neo-liberal policies intertwined with deregulation, liberalization and flexibilization of labor imposed by International Financial Institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the Asian Development Bank since the early 1980’s. These policies led to drastic cut on government health spending and increased out-of-pocket spending which bleed the people dry because they have to shoulder all their health needs and expenditures.
There is no truth to the claim that privatization will lead to more accessible health care to the vast majority of the poor Filipino people. On the contrary, privatization of government hospitals and health services has resulted and will continue to result in:
- Government hospitals and public health care facilities being run like big business entities to enhance revenues and amass big profit by charging exorbitant fees for various health services rendered to patients;
- The poor and the marginalized segment of the population being deprived further of their right to health like access to essential health care.
- Continued diminution, deprivation of benefits, threat to the security of tenure and low wages of health workers which consequently has serious effects in the quality of service and care they rendered to their patients
- Further deterioration in the health status of the people
The 1987 Constitution states that “the government must adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health and development which shall endeavor to make essential goods, health and other social services available to all people at affordable costs”.
The policy of privatization illustrates how health, which is a basic right and health services, which should be a state-provided social services HAS NOW BECOME AN EXPENSIVE COMMODITY that is beyond the reach of the people. The government has abdicated on its responsibility to the people and instead has actively pursued the interest of big business and foreign dictates.
Thus, this Conference challenges the Aquino government to:
- Immediately stop the privatization of government hospitals and health services.
- Fulfill the state’s responsibility to provide for the health of its people.
- Immediately allocate 5% of the GDP or P527 billion for health
We call upon the Filipino people to:
- Expose and oppose all forms of privatization in all levels
- Demand a stop to the program of PPP and the policy of privatization
- Resolutely pursue free, progressive and comprehensive health care for the people