Press Release
June 20, 2015

90 M Filipinos have tooth decay but no line-item fund for oral care in P2.6 T budget

"Kung halos bawat Pilipino may sakit sa ngipin, bakit walang pondo para sa ngipin sa national budget?"

With 9 in 10 Filipinos suffering from tooth decay but only 1 in 10 of them can afford to see a dentist once a year, budget for oral health care should be restored as a line-item in the national budget, Sen. Ralph Recto said.

"The national budget will remain a toothless instrument in promoting dental health if it does not specifically set aside funds for this purpose," Recto said.

Recto urged the national government to reintroduce oral health care accounts in the proposed 2016 national budget - said to reach almost P3 trillion - that it will submit to Congress in six weeks.

He said oral health care will not get the attention it rightfully deserves for as long as oral health spending will remain as a hidden account in the national budget.

"It is time to surface dental heath in the pages of the general appropriations bill," Recto said.

Citing a government survey, Recto said 1 in 7 absent from work or school at least once a month and 1 in 10 fail to go to school or work at least twice a year due to aching tooth or gums.

Nine in 10 urban schoolchildren have decayed tooth.

Yet, there's only 1 dentist for every 70,000 Department of Education (DepEd) students and teachers, Recto lamented.

He called for the hiring of more public dentists, especially in public schools.

"At present, there are only 300 dentists in DepEd's employ to attend to the needs of a combined student-teacher population of 21.5 million."

Recto said, "nationally, there are 18 government dentists per 1 million Filipinos. In contrast, there are 3,556 elected public officials per 1 million families," the Senate President Pro-Tempore said.

"If every 1,000 days we hire through costly elections 81 governors, 143 city mayors, 1,491 town mayors, 11,932 town councilors, so why can't we hire more dentists?" Recto said.

Compounding the lack of manpower is the scant resources dedicated to oral health care, the senator pointed out.

"The National Center for Disease Prevention Control was allocated P23.6 million to push the Oral Fit Child program in 2013. Last year, it was given P35 million to buy for dental sealants and filling materials for pre-school kids," he said.

He estimates that at best, DepEd spent a measly P9 million for dental supplies out of its P37.5 million expenses for supplies in 2013.

This was equivalent to an annual budget of less than two pesos per student a year, Recto said.

"P9 million is half the amount the DBM paid its janitors in 2013. Even the DND spent twice more for the food and drugs of the dogs in its K-9 units in the same year," Recto said.

Recto said if government can spend for less important things, it can afford a higher dental budget.

"Kung meron tayong 20 milyong estudyante sa DepEd at ang kalahati ay bibigyan mo ng tig-kinse pesos na sepliyo, ang P150 milyon ay katumbas lamang ng communication expenses ng Department of Agriculture sa isang taon," Recto said.

"Or kung bibili ka ng P100 million worth of toothpaste, katumbas lang yan ng ginasta ng DAR sa gasolina noong 2013," he said.

Cutting the national government's travel budget this year by just 5 percent could free P700 million for the purchase of dental equipment, Recto said.

Recto said the lack of funds for dental care also hit women hardest.

Two disturbing findings of the survey are that 9 in 10 urban children have decayed tooth, and women have more missing teeth than men, the senator said.

"Seven in 10 women have missing teeth, while it is 5 in 10 for men. Even the number of missing teeth, women trump men: an average 8 missing teeth for females, while 4 for males."

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