Up to P5B for COVID-19 vaccine purchase eyed under Bayanihan 2
MANILA, Philippines — Legislators are looking into earmarking up to P5 billion for the purchase of vaccines for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) under the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, or Bayanihan 2, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said.
In an online interview with reporters on Wednesday, Zubiri said part of a multi-billion standby fund proposed under the Bayanihan 2 will be set aside for the procurement of vaccines.
“We’re going to discuss the Bayanihan 2 tomorrow in the pre-bicam (bicameral conference committee) I think part of the funds will be utilized for Bayanihan 2 will be set aside—this was of course unofficially mentioned within our chat groups—it will be set aside for purchases of vaccines para hindi na po tayo kailangan maghintay pa ng budget for 2021,” the senator said.
The Bayanihan 2 bill lays out the country’s COVID-19 response and recovery plan and allocates funds to help struggling sectors cope up with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Both measures have been approved on final reading. The two chambers of Congress will now have to reconcile their versions in a bicam before transmitting the measure to President Rodrigo Duterte for his signature.
“Napakarami nang mga vaccines that are starting to come out in the market. We’re looking during the ‘ber’ months, starting September, October, November, marami na pong vaccines that will be able to go out on the market,” Zubiri went on.
(There are already a lot of vaccines that are starting to come out in the market. We’re looking during the ‘ber’ months, starting September, October, November many vaccines will be able to go out on the market.)
“Ang ayaw lang natin mangyari, mahuli tayo sa pagbili ng vaccines dahil buong mundo mamimili nito, baka mahuli tayo,” he added.
(What we don’t want to happen is for us to be last in purchasing these vaccines because the whole world would want to be the first to purchase.)
According to the senator, the funds eyed for the country’s vaccination program could be pulled from the allocations for affected industries.
“We are going to try to increase the vaccination budget. By doing that we’re going to have to get the budget of the industries that need help,” he said.
“We’re going to look into the budget kasi napaka-meager ng amount P140 billion. Napakaraming industriyang humihingi ng tulong pero siyempre bibigyan natin nga halaga ang pagbili ng bakuna,” Zubiri added.
(We’re going to look into the budget because P140 billion is very meager. There are a lot of industries that need help but of course we will give importance to the purchase of vaccines.)
Another way to provide funds for the vaccines is to ask the finance department to give more leeway to lawmakers for the provision of an additional P3 billion to P5 billion under the Bayanihan 2 for the purchase of the vaccines, according to the lawmaker.
“Kung hindi po natin to pwedeng ikaltas sa ibang industriya then we’re going to try to, and I’m sure papayag naman si [Finance] Secretary [Sonny] Dominguez kung magdadagdag tayo ng P3 bilyon or gawin natin P5 bilyon yung budget for vaccines initially,” he added.
(If we can’t divert the funds intended for the industries then we’re going to try to, and I’m sure [Finance] Secretary [Sonny] Dominguez will allow it, to have an additional P3billion to P5 billion budget for vaccines initially.)
Zubiri, meanwhile, cautioned the government to carefully choose which vaccines to purchase.
“Kailangan magingat muna tayo [We need to be cautious]. Let’s continue with the testing, let’s follow science, let’s follow the reports given to us by the [World Health Organization] about the efficacy of these vaccines,” he added.
The Philippine government has already reached out to various COVID-19 vaccine developers from the United States, Taiwan, China, and the United Kingdom for possible purchase once vaccines have been found and become available.
Over 100 potential COVID-19 vaccines are currently in development worldwide.
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) will meet with Gamaleya Institute, the manufacturer of Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine, to discuss the possible participation of the Philippines in the vaccine’s clinical trials, according to the health department.
This, after Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier announced that Moscow has approved and registered a vaccine for COVID-19.
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