At least two lawmakers from the Visayas, including a former health secretary were cold on the President Duterte’s bid to seek additional funds for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines for all 130 million Filipinos.
Former Health secretary and Iloilo 1st Rep. Janette Garin said it may be premature for the Executive to ask for additional funding for the procurement of the vaccines at this point in time.
“If my memory recalls it right, an allocation of P10 billion was included under Bayanihan 2. Augmentation of an existing program is easy and doable with the powers of the Executive,” she said in a text message.
“Hence, adding more budget without a definitive price at the moment might just end up with unutilized funds or vaccine pricing being exorbitant, just like what happened to PCV (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine) procurement,” she further explained.
Negros Oriental 2nd District Rep. Manuel Sagarbarria said the P2.5 billion included in the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021 for COVID-19 vaccines will be enough.
“Most of the people who can afford will have themselves vaccinated as soon as possible, those that can’t afford will rely on government. I believe P2.5 billion is sufficient,” he said in a separate text message.
He even noted that the private sector will also do their part in ensuring that their employees have additional protection against the coronavirus disease.
“Even companies will have their employees vaccinated as soon as possible,” he said.
But, Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor insisted that the House of Representatives should augment the funds allocated for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines next year.
“Congress should augment the budget for the procurement of the vaccine. I already made a statement on that P12.9 billion minimum should be programmed for the vaccination of 20 million poor Filipinos,” he said.
He said the officials of the Department of Health already relayed to the House that they would need P12.9 billion to inoculate 20 million poor Filipinos.
“Since they have P2.5 billion in the proposed 2021 budget, they intend to source the shortfall from borrowings,” he said.
He said the House could realign appropriations in next year’s outlay instead of allowing the DOH to resort to loans.
“There is enough room in the budget proposal for realignments. For instance, we can reduce allocations for non-essential expenses like travel, dining and entertainment to finance the procurement of vaccines,” he said.
Defensor also called on the DOH to take a second look at its Covid-19 vaccination funding estimate.
“P12.9 billion for 20 million poor Filipinos amounts to an average of P645. Is P645 for one dose or two doses? It it enough to immunize each of the 20 million against the new coronavirus and Covid-19 disease?” he asked.