Zubiri allays fears of ‘maldistribution’ with bill on LGUs’ vaccine purchase
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Friday allayed fears of a group of healthcare practitioners over a possible “maldistribution” of vaccines if a bill seeking to expedite local government units’ (LGUs) vaccine procurement is passed.
Zubiri, in a statement, assured that the bill would not give LGUs precedence over the national government in terms of vaccine procurement, contrary to the sentiments of the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against Covid-19 (HPAAC).
“National government pa rin ang masusunod — LGUs still need to follow the national guidelines for vaccine deployment set by the Department of Health and the National Task Force against COVID-19. So no one should fear inequitable distribution,” he said.
Whether the vaccines are procured by the national government, frontliners “will still be prioritized for vaccination,” according to the senator.
“The vaccines purchased by LGUs will augment the supply of the national government. LGUS who will not be able to purchase vaccines on their own will still be covered by the national government vaccine rollout,” he added.
HPAAC earlier thumbed down Zubiri’s Senate Bill No. 2042, saying it could lead to “maldistribution” of vaccines and higher jab prices.
“When LGUs… are allowed to procure on their own, then priorities will be defined by capacity to pay rather than need for the vaccine,” Dr. Antonio Dans of the HPAAC told senators during a Senate hearing Thursday.
Under the bill, the LGUs ”may directly” procure their vaccines. LGUs will also be exempted from certain provisions under the country’s procurement rules.
For example, the measure would allow LGUs to make an advance payment of not more than 50 percent of the contract price “if required by the supplier, manufacturer, distributor, contractor or consultant.”
According to Zubiri, it was the LGUs that had requested for the bill.
“Around 70 local government units are in negotiations with vaccine suppliers and they need to deposit advance payments to secure them. Otherwise, we will lose the allocation,” he said.
Zubiri also said that the LGUs had requested that they be exempted from the requirement of purchasing goods and services from suppliers with the lowest bid.
“This is not possible with the COVID-19 vaccine as it is supply-driven. It is impossible because the lowest price is not always available,” he said.
“And let me stress again, this bill was requested by our LGUs, and it will only apply to our LGUs with tripartite agreements. So people do not need to worry about private entities taking advantage of this bill,” he added.
He noted that during the Senate committee hearing on the bill, both the Department of Health and the government’s Covid-19 task force expressed support for the measure because it would “assist them in the speedy roll out of the vaccines for the priority list of recipients.”
“The DOH mentioned that the vaccines given by the COVAX facility of the [World Health Organization] arriving this month is already prioritized for all the health care workers and frontliners of our country. Una talaga sila sa pag bigay nang vaccination so they have nothing to fear,” he added.
“We can put safeguards in the bill to make sure of that. But at this point in time everyone should do their part in helping the national government vaccinate as many people as possible starting with all those in the priority list of recipients,” Zubiri added.
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