NPF: Construction for ‘mega’ jab center approved since April
MANILA, Philippines — The former director of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) clarified on Tuesday that the NPF already gave permission for the construction of a mega-vaccination center at the park as early as April, but said proper legal procedures must be followed.
“Actually, we gave our approval for the use of the land as a vaccination facility on April 8. What we ask is that we follow all the legal processes for use of the land under an emergency [situation],” resigned NPF executive director Atty. Lucille Karen Malilong-Isberto told ANC’s “Headstart.”
She also noted that it would be “illegal” to give the Nayong Pilipino land to a private entity based on “a mere letter and a YouTube video.”
Proposals to use the public sector’s land in cases of an emergency should come from a government agency, said Isberto, which was not the case as the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) Foundation, a private organization, made the request.
“It would be illegal for the Nayong Pilipino to give the land for free use to ICTSI Foundation on the basis of a mere letter and a YouTube video,” she explained, adding that the state-run park was actually waiting for the Department of Health (DOH) to make the request.
Isberto said that despite the emergency powers of the President, the order to use the land needs to be documented first.
“So, where’s the request from the Department of Health that it needs the land, that’s [what] we’re looking for,” she said.
She also noted that the DOH previously said at the National Vaccination Operations Committee that it was not asking for the land.
“So, the second question is: can we allow the private sector to use it? And the use with the private sector for government land needs to comply with so many laws,” Isberto said.
“That’s why we’ve written to DOH and Secretary Galvez asking for details so that the proper MOA [memorandum of agreement] setting forth that the use of the land for emergency purposes are clear,” she added, referring to vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr.
She also said the NPF is confused as to why it appeared they were against the plan because of the trees, saying that the Nayong Pilipino land is within the buffer zone of a protected area, which means that environmental laws are still in place.
“If you’re going to build anything there, then let’s go through the process of building within the buffer zone of a protected area,” the resigned official went on.
Isberto further explained that aside from a memorandum of agreement, an executive order would suffice allowing the construction of the facility.
“That would have been faster if they did that before, instead of asking the board, because the board needs to rely on other documents to see that all requirements of the law are met,” Isberto added.
However, she also expressed concern on cutting trees in the middle of a pandemic, noting that Metro Manila has no more green and open spaces.
“Nayon, as a stead of the environment, which describes its mission as celebrating cultural and natural heritage — that would be contrary to its beliefs, right?”
“But again, this is an emergency, if this is the President’s decision to cut down all these trees, then that’s his decision.”
On Razon’s remarks
Isberto also responded to ICTSI chief executive officer Enrique Razon Jr.’s remarks, who called them “idiots” for opposing the plan for the mega vaccination site.
“Well, he can call us whatever he wants we just want to follow. And this is what this controversy is about,” she said.
An uproar emerged after the NPF raised environmental concerns on the construction of a mega-vaccination facility that would cause the abrupt cutting of close to 500 trees at the park.
The Palace backed the facility’s construction, saying that it is “pursuant to the inherent police powers of the president.”
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