ADB, Japan lend support to PH health reform program

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The government of Japan and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) rolled out on Friday a $2-million technical aid package to support the pilot implementation of policy reforms on universal health care (UHC) in the Philippines.

Funded by the Japan Fund for Prosperous and Resilient Asia and the Pacific (JFPR), the project supports the ADB’s $600-million loan to the Philippines that was announced last November and intended for the “Build Universal Health Care Program.”

Formerly known as the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, the JFPR was established in May 2000 in the wake of the Asian Financial Crisis. Since then, the fund has been instrumental in extending grant aid to underprivileged and vulnerable groups in developing member countries of the ADB.

Technical assistance

Slated for implementation until October 2024, the technical assistance project is expected to result in strengthened financing and strategic purchasing for UHC; increased quantity and quality of health facilities and workers; and expanded access to primary care and health promotion services.

Koshikawa Kazuhiko, Japan’s ambassador to the Philippines, expressed confidence that the country “is now regarded on the same path” as Japan considering that it is “taking the lead” among member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in making laws on and implementing UHC.

In February 2019, the Philippine UHC law—Republic Act No. 11223—to ensure that Filipinos have equitable access to quality health services and avoid high out-of-pocket health expenses.

“This achievement and the leadership of the government of the Philippines, in particular the finance and health departments, have to be applauded,” Koshikawa said during the launching ceremony.

Trust fund

Also, Kazuhiko said that the Philippines was the first country to receive this newly introduced UHC project under the JFPR trust fund, which the ADB administers.

On November, the ADB approved a $600-million policy-based loan to help the Philippines provide quality and equitable health services for all Filipinos as part of its UHC reform program.

This program is intended to support the government’s initiatives to improve the financing and delivery of health services and implement measures to monitor the performance of health service providers.

As part of UHC reforms, the Philippine government has automatically included all Filipinos in its National Health Insurance Program. It also mobilized revenues from higher taxes on alcohol, sweetened beverages, tobacco, and heated tobacco and vapor products to help finance UHC and expand primary care services.

The new ADB program will expand the use of digital tools for the sector and ensure sharing of data among health information systems and databases.

—Ronnel W. Domingo

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