Galvez asks Nayong Pilipino to OK mega jab hub amid environmental concerns

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Galvez asks Nayong Pilipino to OK mega jab hub amid environmental concerns
Photo shows urban forest on Nayong Pilipino property.
Nayong Pilipino

MANILA, Philippines — The head of the government’s vaccine strategy called on the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) to sign the agreement on the construction of a massive COVID-19 vaccination center on its property, which is seen to damage the existing ecosystem in the area. 

In a statement Sunday, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. stressed the urgency in establishing a mega vaccination center at the Nayong Pilipino in Parañaque City as it “will help accelerate” the implementation of the government’s vaccination campaign, which is moving slowly.

“This vaccination center brings us closer to our goal of inoculating at least 50 million Filipinos and achieving herd immunity this year,” Galvez said.

Last month, the government’s pandemic task force authorized the National Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF) to enter into an agreement with the NPF for the construction of the temporary inoculation center.

But the construction has yet to commence as the NPF board of trustees has yet to sign a memorandum of agreement with the NTF. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea released a memorandum on May 4 directing the state-run park operator “to undertake any and all acts necessary to allow the Department of Health or the NTF to use the NPF property.”

Death of existing ecosystem

In a statement on May 6, the NPF, a government-owned and controlled corporation, raised concerns about the establishment of the facility.

It said the NPF property is a “thriving urban forest that hosts a variety of urban wildlife and is the last remaining grassland in the reclaimed area of Parañaque.”

The site of the planned vaccination center serves as a bird flyway network. It is also near the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, a protected area and a wetland site of international importance.

“The abrupt cutting of close to 500 trees and other site works on the NPF property will kill the existing ecosystem. Once lost, it could take decades to recover this ecosystem,” the NPF said.

“A mega-vaccination facility that will destroy this ecosystem would be a disaster and a disservice to the residents of Metro Manila who need more green and open spaces,” it added.

NPF executive director Lucille Karen Malilong-Isberto has already resigned, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

The NPF also said the vaccination center close to a quarantine facility on its property may pose health risks, and questioned the propriety of allowing the ICTSI Foundation led by ports and gaming tycoon Enrique Razon Jr. to handle the construction of the facility.

Fate of trees or people’s lives?

Galvez said it is “inappropriate for the NPF to equate the fate of 500 Ipil-ipil trees with the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of Filipinos.”

“We would like to emphasize that the government deeply cares for the environment. But as the pandemic wreaks havoc on the lives of our people and our economy, we have to make the choice. ‘Green and open spaces’ will be useless if there will be no one to visit them,” he said.

The vaccine czar also defended Razon, saying he offered to build the facility at no cost to the national government.

The Department of Tourism, in a statement issued last week, said environmental architect Jun Palafox Jr. is in charge of designing the temporary vaccine facility with minimal impact on the environment. It is envisioned to be similar to the mobile field hospital and drive-thru vaccination on Burnham Green in Rizal Park, Manila.

“We therefore call on the NPF to heed our call and sign the MOA as soon as possible. We can no longer afford to waste time. The future of our people and nation depends on it,” Galvez said.



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