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    Fighting for the Green Agenda in Healthcare

    Speech at the Inauguration of Greencity Medical Center

    Greencity Medical Center Open Ground, Pampanga

    Thank you very much. Kindly take your seats.

    Mayor Edwin Santiago of the City of San Fernando; Vice Mayor Jimmy Lazatin; our former Pampanga Governor and a very good friend of my late husband, Among Ed Panlilio; Police Colonel Jean Fajardo, Provincial Director of the Pampanga Police Provincial Office; Lieutenant Colonel Emeterio Valdez of the Philippine Army Commander, 48th Infantry Brigade; Dr. Hazel Peñafiel, President, and also the members of the Greencity Medical Center (GMC) Executive Committee; GMC officers and staff present, of course headed by your Medical Director Dr. Virgilio Pantig; GMC investors; representatives from the GMC’s partner companies; my fellow workers in government who are present; honored guests; ladies and gentlemen: Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat!

    It is my honor and privilege to lead the inauguration today of the product of your passion—the product of your passion, your grit and your determination, [and] your vision to build a hospital that is truly focused on the well-being of patients, without hurting Mother Earth.

    I am not a doctor, but as I was telling the other doctors earlier, my husband comes from a family of doctors and my second daughter is also hoping to become a doctor. She’s on her last week as a medical clerk, and will soon be an intern next year. And I have been [a] witness to how hard work is the norm for all of you in the medical profession, and nothing short of excellence and perfection are required from you who hold life in the balance of your smallest decisions.

    Unfortunately, some of the tools and methods traditionally used in hospitals to save human lives are helping cause the faster demise of the planet we live in. The healthcare industry has a global carbon footprint of 2.6 billion metric tons, or 5 percent of total global emissions.[1] This is why efforts to build a hospital such as the Greencity Medical Center is critical to our survival. I believe the rest of the healthcare industry should look at it as a proof that taking care of our people’s health does not have to destroy our planet.

    To me, the story of how Greencity Medical Center came to be is a very inspiring one, because it is rooted on a commitment to never forget who is at the center of all our efforts. More than its economic value, more than the medical and scientific innovations within your grounds, more than the breakthroughs that may happen within your walls, is the aspiration to serve all who come here for treatment and the desire to make healthcare inclusive.

    For us at the Office of the Vice President, never losing sight of why we wake up every morning and who we wake up for, is central to everything that we do. We go to great lengths, traveling to remote barangays and far-flung communities, not for any other purpose—but to find out how we can help the last, the least, and the lost, through our antipoverty program called Angat Buhay.

    What we have seen in very remote communities these past three years confirms what we have known all along: too many of our people still don’t have access to quality healthcare. Rural communities have little to no facilities and equipment to address urgent medical needs. Particularly in remote areas, there are not enough doctors and nurses to check up on patients.

    We want to help to reach out to these communities and give them access to quality healthcare, but we can only do so much, considering that our office has very limited mandate and very limited budget.

    Immediately after we assumed office in 2016, we discovered that we what we had was a currency that we can use for the benefit of our suffering community: an abundance of trust and confidence among many development organizations and corporations wanting to help. We were lucky that many were willing to partner with us and make us as a conduit for their development activities, as we empower and capacitate the poorest communities and local governments to raise their absorptive capacity in accepting development support. In short, we bring together those who have the greatest need and those with the greatest purpose and resource.

    All of this sounds simple enough, but you and I know that in a world of broken trust, division, and polarity, the difficulties of collaboration can kill good intentions.

    In the last three years, we have seen inspiring transformations in the communities we work in and the lives of the people we have met. In the joyful tears and the beautiful testimonials of the people we have met, we find great purpose and inspiration to power through the political muck, disinformation campaigns, and the overall darkness of these times.

    For example: one of our adopted communities for our Angat Buhay program is San Remigio, a very small town in northern Cebu. I don’t know if you’ve heard of San Remigio. We first visited San Remigio in March 2017 to have a dialogue with the fisherfolk. But while we were there, we were told that of the mental condition of many of its population. Sobrang dami pala ng mental patients sa San Remigio, at marami sa kanila, kinukulong sa loob ng mga cages at itinatali sa bahay para makapagtrabaho iyong kanilang mga family members.

    We learned that there was an NGO there called Americares na tumutulong sa local government units para isugpo iyong kanilang mental health problems, but it was never enough. So our office decided to partner with the local government of San Remigio and we also partnered with the Philippine Mental Health Association para tulungan iyong maliit na bayan.

    We trained barangay health workers, we set up community mental health programs, and using our very limited resources nagpatayo kami ng mental health facility. And the mental health facility which we built, we inaugurated already in February of this year.

    Maraming mga partners na tumulong—from the equipment to medicines, etcetera—and we were so happy when we came back, na sobrang dami na ng mental health patients ang natulungan. And they were all on their way to recovery just because of the many partnerships that we built. Since then, barangay health workers have already been trained and already very active in community mental health rehabilitation. Pagpapakita [ito] na it does not take too much… for collaborations to happen but the transformations are indeed immense.

    San Remigio is only one of 176 communities under our Angat Buhay program. Despite our limited resources, our office has been able to mobilize additional resources needed to assist these communities through collaborations with the private sector. So imagine what we can do if we do things together, if there were more organizations reaching out to uplift the lives of the people.

    Today, we [as] open GMC’s doors to Kapampangans and the rest of the region, giving all those who come here access to your state-of-the-art technology, we have an opportunity to turn our gaze to those in the margins as well. It is my hope that we see healthcare as a human right. That the quality of our service and the urgency of the help we provide does not depend on the depth of someone’s wallet, nor the size of his bank account.

    Sadly, health care is one of those things that massively highlight the gap between the rich and poor. From the days when I was still working as a human rights lawyer for the poor, to those days when I was in Congress, I got intimately involved in the lives of poor communities in my district. To today that I am already with the Office of the Vice President, I have seen all the more how money can determine whether a person lives or dies, gets better or gets worse. This must stop and we must all help. Our humanity demands this of us.

    By setting an example for others, soon, we should be seeing more health facilities that cater to far-flung and remote areas, perhaps and hopefully with technology powered by sustainable and renewable energy such as yours. In our lifetime, we could be opening more clinics and hospitals powered by solar panels perhaps or discovering a way to safely treat waste water and other toxic disposals.

    Our people’s health and future depend on you—medical practitioners and allies who are breaking ground and advancing our country’s green healthcare agenda. And I believe with the establishment of Greencity Medical Center, we are well on our way to ensuring that every Filipino family has access to reliable healthcare.

    We are one with you in this fight for a healthier, greener and more sustainable nation. With your healing hands and caring hearts, we can do so much more together.

    Maraming salamat po. Congratulations and mabuhay po kayong lahat! [applause]

    Posted in Speeches on May 18, 2019