Any congressional move to raise the proposed 2021 budget for the coronavirus vaccine should at least be done in consultation with the Executive branch, according to a Palace official.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said while they respect Congress’ wisdom to hike the vaccine budget for the next year, the issue on its funding source must also be addressed.
“The power of purse is vested in Congress. We will bow to the wisdom of Congress should they deem it fit to increase the budget for the vaccine, and of course, may pagkukuhanan po iyan (there will be a funding source for that),” he said during a Palace press briefing Thursday.
“So we hope that Congress will at least confer with the Executive kung saan nila kukunin iyong pondo para itaas ang budget for the vaccine (on where the funds will be obtained to raise the budget for the vaccine),” he added.
Nonetheless, Roque affirmed the administration’s resolve to ensure the country has adequate funds for the vaccine procurement once the life-saving drug becomes available.
“We join Congress in our desire that we should have sufficient funds to pay for the vaccine, which according po to (Philippine) Ambassador (to China) Chito (Sta. Romana) is really forthcoming in the near future,” he said.
The House of Representatives has reportedly introduced several amendments to its approved 2021 national budget, including a higher budget for the purchase of COVID vaccines to P8 billion. In the original Palace-backed P4.5 trillion national budget proposal, at least P2.5 billion has been allocated for the COVID-19 vaccination program under the Department of Health’s budget.
House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, who leads a small group in charge of amendments to the budget bill, said the additional P5.5 billion to augment the vaccine budget aims to ensure safe and effective vaccine will be available to Filipinos.
“This is to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s program to strengthen the country’s health care system. We believe that vaccines play a very crucial role in keeping the population safe and healthy from the pandemic,” the Leyte lawmaker said.
On the part of the Senate, Senator Panfilo Lacson disclosed plans to increase funding for the coronavirus vaccine under the proposed 2021 national budget.
Last week, the President said the government has the funds to buy the coronavirus vaccine once it is available but would need more money to vaccinate all Filipinos.
Duterte earlier vowed to give priority to the poor, the police and military personnel in the distribution of free vaccines. He said the country will buy the most affordable vaccine to be sold in the market given the government’s limited resources.