‘Suntok sa buwan’: Drilon doubts gov’t can pull off vaccine targets in 2021
MANILA, Philippines — The chances of the Philippine government meeting its target of acquiring 148 million coronavirus vaccine doses by yearend is as good as shooting for the moon, said Senator Franklin Drilon, citing several stumbling blocks in its inoculation program for 70-million Filipinos.
“Ang amin lang nadinig kahapon [sa Senate hearing] at na-examine ng husto ay yung commitment na mag-supply. Sa amin, masyadong suntok sa buwan yung kanilang plano na bumili ng 148 million doses, sabi nila, in the next few months,” Drilon said in an interview over Teleradyo on Tuesday.
(What we heard and examined yesterday was the commitment of supply. For us, their target of securing 148 million vaccines in the next few months would be a moonshot.)
“Sana po mangyari, kung sa akin, medyo suntok sa buwan po yan,” he added.
(I hope they will be able to achieve it, but I think it would be hard to pull off.)
In a separate statement, Drilon said “the arrival of the vaccines is not even definite.”
“How can they say that they will be able to purchase 148 million doses by the end of 2021 when up to now, we haven’t given any emergency use authorization (EUA) to any vaccine and we have not been able to raise, through loans, all the needed amount for the purchase of the vaccines?” the minority leader asked.
During Monday’s Senate hearing on the national COVID-19 vaccination plan, National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 chief and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. told senators that the government is eyeing to secure 148 million doses of vaccine in 2021.
Further, Galvez said the “best case scenario” for the government’s inoculation plan is that up to 70 million Filipinos will be vaccinated within the year.
But Drilon expressed doubts that the government would be able to pull it off.
He pointed out that funding for the vaccines “is not even guaranteed at this point” since the government has yet to fully secure the necessary loans to fund the P70 billion in the unprogrammed fund allocated for the said purpose under the 2021 national budget.
Under the budget, a total of P72.5 billion was allocated for the vaccines but only P2.5 billion, lodged under the Department of Health, is immediate funding.
Drilon said that if the government wants to achieve its target of vaccinating 70 million Filipinos within the year, it should allow the local government units (LGUs) and the private sector to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for the purchase of the vaccines that they have given an EUA.
“They have a better chance of achieving their targets if they lift the restriction that they set that prevents local chief executives and the private sector from buying vaccines directly from the manufacturers,” he said.
“It will facilitate a speedy purchase of the much-needed vaccines. I believe there is a consensus among the senators insofar as lifting this restriction is concerned,” he added.
Allowing the private sector and LGUs to procure on their own was the subject of a lengthy discussion during Monday’s hearing.
Senators had questioned what they see as the national government’s “monopoly” of the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
“Hindi po namin maintindihan. Patigasan na ng ulo ito, kung bakit hindi payagan ang sektor pribado at ng LGU na mag-import,” Drilon said.
(We don’t understand. They’re very stubborn, why they won’t allow the private sectors and LGUs to import.)
At present, private sectors and LGUs are allowed to secure vaccines but only through a tripartite agreement with the national government and suppliers.
The Senate will resume its hearing on the government’s vaccination plan on Friday.
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