P10-B ‘standby fund’ for COVID-19 testing, vaccines included in Bayanihan 2 – Angara
MANILA, Philippines — The Congress’ reconciled version of the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or the Bayanihan 2 bill provides for a P10-billion standby fund for the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccine, Senator Sonny Angara said.
In an online interview with reporters before the Senate is expected to ratify the reconciled measure, Angara also said a provision under the Bayanihan 2 “relaxes” the procurement requirement for the vaccine.
“May [There’s] standby fund for a vaccine in case a vaccine becomes available later in the year….We don’t really know how much it will cost…even other countries hindi alam anong cost nung vaccine so ano lang siya naka-standby siya don (have no idea what would be the cost of the vaccine so it’s on standby),” Angara said.
“I think [Finance] Secretary [Carlos Dominguez III] was also quoted as saying they can borrow up to P20 billion just for that vaccine. So kumbaga pag pinagsama mo yung P10 billion sa P20 billion (So it’s like the P10 billion and P20 billion were lumped together). I think [we’re] covered for at least the next few months,” Angara went on.
The P10 billion is included in the P25 billion standby fund for the Bayanihan 2, which has a regular appropriation of P140 billion.
The P10 billion standby fund will only be made available once additional funds are generated from government savings or unused funds.
According to the senator, the bicameral panel also agreed to ease the requirements for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines to allow the government to procure in advance.
He said that so long as the World Health Organization (WHO) has certified the vaccine, the Philippine government can go on ahead and procure.
But Angara emphasized that prior to mass distribution, the vaccine would still need to undergo the phase 4 trials and meet minimum standards set by health authorities.
“The safety protocols will be dictated by the Food and as well as the [Health Technology Assessment Council] of the DOH (Department of Health),” he added.
The P10-billion standby fund will also be used for COVID-19 testing and procurement of medication.
The Senate is set to ratify the reconciled version of the Bayanihan 2 bill Thursday afternoon.
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. [ac]
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