House starts probe on ‘yellow card’ vaccine certification system

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
House starts probe on âyellow cardâ vaccine certification system
Personnel of the Bureau of Quarantine process international certificates of vaccination or ‘yellow cards’ for international travel at the Ayala Harbor Point Mall satellite office in Subic Bay Freeport yesterday.
Ric Sapnu

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives started yesterday its investigation on the controversy involving the issuance of international certifications of vaccination (ICV) to Filipino travelers and workers abroad.

Lawmakers, during a hearing by the committee on overseas workers affairs, questioned the collection of P370 by the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) for the so-called “yellow cards.”

AMMBIS-OWA party-list Rep. Sharon Garin, economic affairs committee chair, specifically questioned the P300 charge for a yellow card and the P70 for convenience fee paid to Fintech firm PisoPay.

The congressmen stressed that the ICV should be free under Section 12 of Republic Act 11525, or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program of 2021, which states that the issuance, amendment and replacement of vaccination cards shall be free of charge.

They added that the charge is just an added “financial burden” to OFWs who wish to return to their work abroad.

“We aim to help our OFWs return to their jobs and support their families amidst the challenges of the pandemic. The government should not add to their burden by unnecessarily charging them with fees to secure their vaccination cards,” Garin said.

Apart from the fees, congressmen also grilled BOQ officials on the delayed releases of ICVs and the awarding of contract to PisoPay despite its allegedly questionable company information and paid-up capital.

The congressmen questioned the credibility of PisoPay as a company, given that it is relatively young, having been incorporated in 2017 and receiving its license as a remittance agent from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas only in 2019.

To them, this implies lack of experience and track record in handling a major national contract.

This is aside from reportedly not being wholly owned by Filipinos.

“Transparency on government contracts and transactions related to the Philippines’ overall vaccination program is key in overcoming COVID-19 and in our economic recovery. Dubious contracts such as the one entered into by BOQ with PisoPay only seek to benefit a few and is not in the best interest of the Filipino people,” added Garin.

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