Gov’t needs P110B to buy vaccines, COVID 'czars' tell senators

This handout photo taken on May 1, 2021 and received from the Presidential Communications Operations Office shows workers unloading first batch of the Russian-made Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine from a plane shortly after arriving at the international airport in Manila.
PCOO Handout via AFP

MANILA, Philippines — The government needs P20 billion to fund COVID-19 vaccine procurement this year and another P90 billion for next year, officials leading the pandemic response told senators Thursday night. 

Sen. Panfilo Lacson told reporters Friday that he and Senate President Tito Sotto met with vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., testing czar Vince Dizon and contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong the night before to "discuss red tape issues and the funding needs hounding the country’s fight against COVID." 

Lacson said the P90 billion needed for the vaccine procurement budget in 2022 will "be included in the regular budget of the Department of Health." 

"This is to be itemized for vaccines, instead of putting it under the Unprogrammed Fund, thus ensuring its availability," he added. 

Lacson also said it was proposed that the P20 billion needed for this year be included under Bayanihan 3 but he suggested that the funds be taken from "unused appropriations of several executive agencies" instead. 

Three committees at the House of Representatives have approved the proposed third stimulus package worth P405.6-billion, or Bayanihan 3, that would provide cash aid worth P2,000 to all Filipinos amid the pandemic.

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The bill still needs to hurdle the House appropriations committee headed by Rep. Eric Go Yap (ACT-CIS) before it can be tackled by the plenary when Congress returns from its break on May 17. 

Counterpart bills in the Senate are still pending at the committee level. 

Only 320,586 people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 since the government kicked off its inoculation program in March. Another 1.7 million Filipinos have received their first dose.

Due to the limited supply of jabs, only healthcare workers, senior citizens, and people with comorbidities are currently being vaccinated.

— Bella Perez-Rubio with a report from Gaea Katreena Cabico and The STAR

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