September 07, 2023 – The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) underscored the need for strategic national investments to promote human and social development in rebuilding a resilient, post-pandemic health sector.

During a high-level meeting between the Philippine government and the World Bank on Health Sector Rebuilding, held on September 5, 2023, Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Teodoro J. Herbosa presented the DOH’s multi-component project proposal that aims to achieve these objectives over the medium term.

To situate the government’s current priorities and strategies in rebuilding a better and more resilient post-COVID-19 health sector, NEDA Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan shared to World Bank officials the lessons the government learned since the pandemic struck.

“In the formulation of the PDP [Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028], we took into account the lessons learned from the past administration (especially from the experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic), global and regional trends over the medium term, our national and the global agenda for development, and our long-term vision embodied by the AmBisyon Natin 2040,” said Balisacan.

The Secretary emphasized that the Philippines’ experience with the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the vulnerability of key sectors in the economy, chief among these being health. Thus, throughout the global crisis, the government had continuously evaluated and examined which measures worked and which ones did not.

Among the lessons learned, Balisacan identified the need to fast-track investments in early warning systems for health crises and emergencies, and the need for a whole-of-government approach towards rebuilding the country’s health sector.

“We learned that there are limits to government resources and capabilities in delivering needed interventions to vulnerable sectors. Therefore, collaboration with local government units and partnerships with the private sectors and civil society is crucial,” said the NEDA chief.

The PDP, which seeks to address the slow progress seen in achieving childhood nutrition and immunization as well as the obstacles faced in the implementation of major health sector reforms, among others, calls for the collaborative effort of all government agencies and instrumentalities in fulfilling these target outcomes.

“The PDP strategy framework for boosting health is built on the vision of a holistic approach to improve health outcomes, reduce health inequities where they exist, and achieve universal healthcare. The plan highlights the contribution of non-health government agencies and non-government health systems stakeholders to attain societal health objectives,” shared Balisacan.

Balisacan also cited the evolving list of priority bills in the 19th Congress that are targeted to boost health in the country and are aligned with the strategies contained in the PDP—the bill on the Elimination of Trans Fatty Acids, the Establishment of a Medical Reserve Corps, the Establishment of Regional Specialty Centers, the creation of the National Disease Prevention Management Authority, and the creation of the Virology Institute of the Philippines.