Filipinos need to be updated on our COVID-19 vaccine program

As the author of Senate Resolution No. 597, the purpose really was to seek this hearing to get clarification on the rollout of the vaccination program.

I think we can all agree that in terms of governance, there is nothing more important than containing the spread of COVID-19. This has affected our communities, our country, in every possible way, from the businesses, from the ability of children to go to school, from access to healthcare, safety of women, so much of our lives have been disrupted.

So it’s very simple. We need to know, our people have the right to understand, not just to hear, but to understand what programs will be rolled out to secure their future.

So from the financing, the procurement, the storage, the transport, administration, and even communication.

At the onset of COVID, no less than WHO emphasized how important communication is. Having had my own dialogues, conversations, Zoom meetings with members of the IATF and DOH in particular, I am familiar with many of the things they are doing. However, I always emphasize communication is important, with co-equal branches of government, and with people so that they understand that things are being done for them.

I will just point out two areas before I yield the floor so we can move on with the presentations. But having been the Vice Chair of the Committee on Finance and [sponsor] of the Department of Health’s budget, I am very familiar that we have allocated funding for the vaccines. However, I’d like to put this on record, that in the last few weeks, maybe 6 weeks or so, the national government has made it clear that we will be procuring vaccines. One report said that it’s 22 million vaccines, of which 2 million will be paid for by the private sector through tripartite agreement.

So we know that the private sector is involved, they are willing, we thank them for coming in and donating and being a part of all this. Yes, I truly believe in a whole-of-nation approach. Meanwhile, local governments have started allocating funds, entering into their own tripartite agreements. Many of the Metro Manila mayors have set aside funds, and also local governments from bigger provinces and cities around the country.

But meanwhile, what happens is the confusion as to, do they really need to allocate this to secure the health of their people? Is that necessary? What now is the impression that it leaves the smaller LGUs, who either have very limited capacity or no capacity at all?

My point is it’s a communication issue. What do these LGUs who are fifth class municipalities, fourth class municipalities, anong mukha ang ihaharap nila sa mga tao nila na wala naman talaga silang pera na kapareho ng mga Metro Manila mayors or mayors ng ibang cities?

That’s my point, we have to clarify this. We commend those who can afford and have put it as a priority but what about those who cannot? Yes, there are statements they are not going to be left behind, but I don’t think that’s the point. The point is, I think we have to be very clear where the funding is coming from, is it even necessary for the LGUs to do this?

Case in point, many cities have hospitals that are run by private sectors. And I also heard that some of these hospitals are now also allocating for their own frontliners. So that means, there is this sense of insecurity that their frontliners will not be covered. Bakit, pang public frontliners lang ba ang priority natin?

So these are the types of questions that I believe we really need to resolve. Maybe you have resolved it, but maybe it has to be communicated better to us and to the people.

That’s on the financing side. One last point I will emphasize now is also on the rolling out, once it’s procured, the storage, the transportation. We have the private sector that is very capable and has already existing facilities. Are we tapping them, have we signed a deal with them, or are we still exploring doing it on our own? No less than Germany, the UK, and other major countries that have all the facilities have experienced major problems in the facilitation and administration of the vaccine. Magyayabang ba tayo na mas magaling tayo sa kanila? Dahil sa kanila eh nagka-palpak pero sa atin, hindi?

We have the benefit of learning from their experience. But that slowness has also built more insecurity and I can’t say it has contributed to the (vaccine) confidence of our people. We have Filipinos all over the world, mababalitaan nila kamag-anak nila, naturukan na sa USA, sa UK, sa Europe. So naiinggit syempre ang mga Pilipino because this is their life they are fighting for.

So on that note, I will yield. But I just wanted to emphasize that really the objective  here is to get the information, to help share this information with the people so that we can do the best we can in the next few months but also move forward with confidence because that is very important for our businesses, for the mothers who are working double time, making money and have to tutor their own kids, they need that security to know that in a few months, things will get better.

Thank you. #

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