A public forum discussing the creeping privatization of public health was conducted at the University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies (UP CIDS) last May 30, 2018. The event, entitled “Creeping Privatization of Health: Defending Public Health! – A Public Forum on Privatization versus Public Health,” was organized by Alternative Budget Initiative – Health Cluster, Social Watch Philippines, DIGNIDAD, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Focus on the Global South, Institute for Popular Democracy, Trade Justice Pilipinas, and WomanHealth Philippines, in cooperation with the UP CIDS Program on Alternative Development.
The forum aims to share information on the private sector’s initiatives to expand and intervene in the health sector, to discuss and understand the implications this would have on the public health system, and to explore what can be done to defend and strengthen the public health system.
Ms. Ana Maria Nemenzo of WomanHealth Philippines gave a briefer on House Bill 7347 or the Anti-Privatization of Public Health Facilities Bill, which seeks to defend public health from privatization.
It was then followed by a discussion regarding the event’s main theme. Among the speakers in the forum were Mr. CJ Castillo of Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN) and Ms. Mary Ann Manahan of World March of Women (WMW), who shared the result of their baseline study on private hospitals. Mr. Castillo discussed the hospital industry profile in the Philippines, while Ms. Manahan presented a case study on Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC) and its competitors and their efforts in privatizing health services.
A panel of reactors were also invited to further speak about the topic. All three reactors, namely Dr. Rene Ofreneo of the School of Labor and Industrial Relations (SOLAIR) at UP Diliman, Ms. Corazon Rio of Kilos Maralita, and Ms. Rosita Lacson of Pinagsamang Lakas at Karunungan ng Nakakatanda (PILKAN), agreed that the privatization of the health industry in the Philippines will not answer the need of the people in terms of adequate and efficient access to health services. Rather, it would further push ordinary people on the periphery of access, due to high cost of services sought for the betterment of their health. All three of them pointed out the need to be critical on this sweeping privatization of health and to act in order to stop it.
An open forum was also conducted which brought up inquiries from the participants on the implications of privatization of health on youth, access to basic services, universal and primary health care, and in the health policy system.
Ms. Zeena Manglinong of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) synthesized the forum. She cited that a continuous spreading of awareness on the importance of defending public health services shall be done hand in hand with strategizing in the creation of a resistance movement against the creeping privatization of health.
(All photos courtesy of Fe Manapat, WomanHealth Philippines)