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‘Government must allocate budget for COVID-19 vaccine’

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
âGovernment must allocate budget for COVID-19 vaccineâ
Scientists and organizations around the world are racing to develop a vaccine to prevent the spread of the deadly 2019 coronavirus in a speed and scale that are unprecedented.
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MANILA, Philippines — An ounce of prevention will always be better than a pound of cure, according to a lawmaker, who said the national government should set aside a certain amount of funds to be used for a vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 in order to save more lives, supposing the medicine will indeed be out 18 months from now.

“Earmark government funds as early as now. Get ready to purchase vaccines once developed. National and local governments ought to be ready with the funds needed to procure ample supplies of the vaccines as soon as they become available,” Rep. Bernadette Hererra said.

“Every moment counts. Any delay would cost lives. We must ensure the vaccines are given to every person who must be vaccinated. This is the prudent course of action,” the Bagong Henerasyon party-list congresswoman added.

“We leave the scientific details and vaccine protocols to the experts on vaccines, but funding and procurement for public use are within the purview of government,” Herrera, a House deputy majority leader, reiterated.

For his part, Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte urged the Inter-Agency Task Force to “draw up a rescue program” for possibly hundreds of thousands of construction workers stranded in their urban job-sites, while a transition to the so-called new normal is underway.

The Camarines Sur congressman issued the statement following the issuance of Executive Order 114 on the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa program, President Duterte’s fresh initiative to reverse migration and spur rural prosperity.

The proposed Balik Probinsya initiative will involve providing daily food packs to the stranded laborers until such time that they are able to go back to their provinces, which, he said, should be as soon as possible.

Villafuerte called anew on the IATF to work out a rescue plan with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and provincial governors along with mayors of cities and municipalities where suspended construction projects are located.

The rescue plan for stranded construction laborers could be likened to the repatriation services that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration have been giving to overseas Filipino workers in distress.

Another House deputy speaker, Rep. Mujiv Hataman of Basilan, urged the national government to also focus on strengthening the country’s “food production frontlines” by pouring funds to improve and enhance the agriculture and agribusiness sectors.

The government is expected to determine this week the total amount of uncommitted funds from various agencies that can be used for its coronavirus response.

Agencies were given until April 30 to submit data on their uncommitted funds that can be realigned to support the fight against the coronavirus disease.

“This week they will consolidate these figures and come up with how much they can realign and the decision will have to be made as to where the funds will be realigned,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing yesterday.

The executive branch needs to determine the amount of uncommitted funds and if it needs to seek a supplemental budget from Congress. Roque could not say when Malacañang would decide on a possible supplemental budget. – Alexis Romero

BERNADETTE HERERRA VACCINE
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