Who foots the bill for expanded contact tracing?

Two weeks ago, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año issued Memorandum Circular No. 2021-103, all provincial governors, city and municipal mayors, and barangay captains to strengthen and expand COVID-19 case finding and contract tracing in the barangays.
Barangay captains should deploy at least one contact tracer if the village population is less than 5,000, with those with over 5,000 population to hire an additional tracer, the circular stressed.
It recommended that the contact tracer should be a member of the Barangay Health Emergency Response Team (BHERT) as they are expected to have undergone necessary training.
On its face, the circular is timely, given that COVID-19 cases is spreading in many barangays of Catanduanes and the recent detection of the Alpha and Beta variants of concern on the island.
With over 50 deaths recorded as of Sunday, the deployment of more contact tracers, in addition to the 56 hired ones already assigned by the DILG to the 11 municipalities, will surely help in ferreting out those whio have been infected by the virus, especially the asymptomatic individuals who are unknowingly spreading the virus around.
Assuming that the 56 would be given one barangay each as his or her assignment, the other 259 barangays would designate a member of their BHERT as contact tracer. The island’s most populous barangay, San Isidro Village in Virac, would need two so it would need a BHERT member to become a contact tracer, assuming it is given one of the 22 DILG contract tracers.
The question now is: how in the world the 259 barangays, and SIV, would be able to pay for the services of a contact tracer, even if he or she is a member of the BHERT?
Once chosen as tracer, the BHERT member would certainly demand payment for her services, as the DILG contact tracers are paid about P20,000 a month for their trouble and the great risk of getting infected.
DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2021-103, written in Filipino as is the style these days among national government agencies, has this to say about funding:
“Para sa kaukulang badyet sa pagpapatupad nito, gugugulin ito mula sa mga pondo ng mga LGU sa pagnanais nilang palawakin at paigtingin pa ang contact tracing sa kanilang nasasakupan, ayon sa nakagawiang panuntunan at regulasyon sa pagbabadyet, pagtutuos at pag-awdit.”
In short, it will be the LGUs responsibility to look for available funds in their respective budgets, whatever of it is remaining for the next three months.
The DILG surely cannot depend on barangays in the countryside, far from Metro Manila and big cities where barangays have multi-million budgets, to scrounge P60,000 from their remaining funds to pay for a contact tracer.
There is also the incongruity of a BHERT member-turned-contract tracer becoming the highest paid among barangay personnel.
Obviously, it will now be the municipal governments who will foot the bill, if it does have available funds.
No problem if it can accommodate one BHERT member from each barangay to be hired as contact tracer, with the group becoming the highest paid contract-of-service employees in the MLGU.
With the filing of Certificates of Candidacy (COC) set next week, it would be political suicide for mayors to lay off a number of job-order casuals to make room for BHERT contract tracers.
It seems that the DILG has given the LGUs a big problem that it cannot solve on its own.
Perhaps, the DILG should have just asked Malacanang to spare it at least P5 billion needed for the hiring of more contact tracers that could then be deployed to the barangays.
Maybe, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III will be able to dig up more funds from where the P42 billion for PS-DBM and Pharmally came.

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