“In our own little way, let us show our compassion to those in need by lending a helping hand, cooperating with authorities to ensure the safety of our communities.


The year 2020 had passed but our culture of malasakit or compassion continues by rushing to aid our kababayans in need, wherever they may be. For instance, last Monday, 4 January, my office distributed assistance, such as food packs, masks, face shields, medicine packs and vitamins, to the ordinary workers of South Pacific Golf & Leisure and Apo Golf & Country Club in Davao City. Prior to Covid-19, they earn almost daily but now, patrons have been limited to almost weekly only, that is why we decided to provide aid to help protect themselves and make ends meet.


Some selected beneficiaries were also provided bicycles that they could use to commute to work given the limited public transportation options due to the ongoing pandemic. Others were given tablets to help their children in blended learning being implemented in schools.


My office also held several distribution activities across the country the next day, 5 January.


Similar forms of assistance were extended by separate teams from my office to a community affected by a diarrhea outbreak in Jose Abad Santos, Davao Occidental and more than a hundred fire victims in Quezon City, as well as public market vendors in Malaybalay City, Quezon and Kitaotao, all in Bukidnon, whose livelihoods were severely affected by the pandemic.


The next day, public market vendors in Jolo, Sulu were also given aid on 6 January as we launched the country’s 97th Malasakit Center at the Sulu Provincial Hospital.


The Malasakit Center is the first in Sulu and the fifth in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, after the Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi City, Cotabato Regional and Medical Center in Cotabato City, Datu Halun Sakilan Memorial Hospital in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi and Maguindanao Provincial Hospital in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.


Similarly, pastors in Cagayan de Oro City and public market vendors in Opol, Misamis Oriental also received assistance from my office on 6 January.


Meanwhile, on 7 and 8 January, my team then extended relief assistance to victims of typhoon “Vicky” in San Miguel, Barobo, Tagbina and Tago in Surigao del Sur. Also, fire victims in Bacoor City, Cavite were also assisted by another team during the same day.


As chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and in support of the advocacy of the Go Bike Project, bicycle units were distributed by my team to the certified Go Bikers on Saturday, 9 January, which they will use to deliver basic health care services, such as blood pressure monitoring, first aid and blood sugar testing across Bugallon, Pangasinan.


Go Bike Project is a youth-led organization that trains and certifies the youth to become community responders during disasters. They use bicycles as a mode of emergency response during health emergencies and natural disasters. I laud this project for inspiring the youth to contribute to the bayanihan efforts in the country.


Finally, we also provided assistance to residents of Binangonan, Rizal on Sunday, 10 January who reached out to my office and sought my assistance given the adverse socio-economic impact of the crisis on their lives.


Also on Saturday, I spoke before an online forum hosted by the United Filipino Global, an organization promoting the welfare of overseas Filipino workers, and reiterated again my push for the enactment of my bill establishing the Department of Overseas Filipinos.


Senate Bill 1949 seeks to streamline the organization and functions of all government agencies related to overseas employment and migration, so government can protect and respond to their needs more efficiently. This has been certified as urgent by the President and is one of the top 20 priority bills of the 18th Congress this year.


Amid the current pandemic, access to health care without imposing unnecessary burden to ordinary Filipinos remains crucial.


It is for this reason that we welcome President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncements favoring the deferment of the implementation of the increase in Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) contribution rates for 2021.


After discussing this with them, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado and PhilHealth chief executive officer Dante Gierran are now also working on initiatives on how the government can unburden Filipinos by shouldering the cost while ensuring that the Universal Health Care Law is implemented and the services of PhilHealth are unhampered.


Recently, I also called upon the government to reinforce further its information campaign to inform the public on the steps being taken to acquire sufficient, safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines and how these will be equitably distributed to all by prioritizing the poor, those in the vulnerable sectors and our frontliners.


I am also looking forward to the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole today, 11 January, to discuss the national Covid-19 vaccine roadmap.


I urge those in the Executive to maximize this opportunity to more clearly and more effectively explain to the general public various aspects and updates on our efforts to overcome the pandemic.


With an informed citizenry equipped with timely, accurate and relevant information, I believe we can better empower Filipinos to participate in the bayanihan efforts to overcome the pandemic as one united people. After all, the government cannot do this alone.


We need everyone’s cooperation, compassion and involvement in order for our country to recover and fulfill the President’s vision of providing a comfortable life for all Filipinos.


Let us all work together to help every Filipino cope with the challenges we are currently facing.


In our own little way, let us show our compassion to those in need by lending a helping hand, cooperating with authorities to ensure the safety of our communities and involving ourselves in the bayanihan efforts for the betterment of the country.


As I have always said, ang bayanihan at pagmamalasakit sa kapwa ang magiging susi upang makabangon muli bilang isang nagkakaisa at mas matatag na bansa (the spirit of community and compassion for others are key for the nation to rise up as a united and stronger one)!


Source: https://tribune.net.ph/index.php/2021/01/11/new-year-renewed-malasakit-to-all-filipinos/