February 9, 2023

VACCINES, NOT QUARANTINE BEST DEFENSE VS PANDEMIC

The rising Covid-19 cases in Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces legitimizes the urgency of importing the vaccines supposedly purchased by the national government through loans amounting to P126.75-billion.
It is the more pressing concern the national government must act upon with new more transmissible variants of the virus driving anxiety among Filipinos to greater heights.
In the absence of vaccines intended for the public, the best response the national Inter-Agency Task Force can recommend to control the continued rise in cases is to put under stricter general community quarantine the greater Metro Manila and Bulacan, Laguna, Rizal, and Cavite.
This action by the IATF only exposes the national government’s “poor” response to the pandemic, as various provinces and regions have already undergone various quarantine classifications since the declaration of the pandemic, but cases nevertheless have continued to rise at an alarming rate.
Something must be done in line with the World Health Organization’s bid for every country to establish herd immunity especially in areas with high Covid-19 cases. But such a goal can only be achieved if the national government starts bringing in the much-needed vaccines it has supposedly purchased from various foreign pharmaceutical companies.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson has disclosed the government loaned $2.4B from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank from April 2020 to March this year, aside from the P10B allocation under the Department of Health Bayanihan budget for a whopping P126.75B.
While there are certain privacy rules to be observed between the government and pharmaceutical companies, we support the call for transparency by disclosing the names of pharmaceutical firms and the corresponding volume of vaccines the government has purchased from them.
It is not enough for the national government to keep harping it has secured 108 million doses of vaccines from various drug makers through signed term sheets since a term sheet is not binding and only outlines the basic conditions that the parties have agreed to.
This means the more important details Filipinos want to know such as the breakdown of the vaccines purchased from each drug maker and the timetable for their arrival and eventual inoculation have no definite answers from the government up to now. What gives?
In its bid to dispel public fear of possible corruption in supposed loans, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. has announced at least one million doses of Sinovac vaccines bought by the government are expected to be delivered on March 29 with no less than the President assuring the loans for the procurement of the vaccines are held by the banks, not in cold cash by the government, pending the delivery of the supply. This means corruption is remote, according to Malacañang.
But those familiar with the government procurement process know better. The disbursements of public funds are indeed being issued through the banks but the accompanying documentation to process the progress billings/payments are accomplished by the government agencies concerned. It is our hope that no overpricing and SOPs will be done in the purchase of the vaccines as there lies the corruption.
For the record, the vaccines that have arrived so far and inoculated on Filipinos based on priority listing of the Department of Health were donations, not part of the procured vaccines from the foreign loans.
It saddens us when the national government becomes onion-skinned and starts accusing critics of early politicking every time concerned officials or groups question the ongoing response to the pandemic.
We understand every country is scrambling to get the vaccines and the most powerful ones are being prioritized. But we don’t see this as a reason for the lack of transparency of the national government in its dealings in the procurement of the vaccines.
The national government must take the extra mile in convincing the drug makers to also give preferential consideration to third-world countries such as the Philippines for faster delivery of the vaccines amid reports that every drug maker is not in full operational capacity due to shortage in raw materials.
And when the procured vaccines finally arrived, we hope the vaccination queues will favor first those who needed it most, not the powerful, rich, famous, and their family members.