Manila–Malacañang describes the bill seeking to allow Local Government Unit(LGU) as urgent. The bill hopes for the LGU to buy the COVID-19 vaccines directly from the suppliers.
“As I said, it’s not just certification; it is an appeal to Congress that it is an urgent administration measure which should be passed right away, ” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.
Several agencies already drafted a certification for the President to make the bill urgent according to Czar Carlito Galvez Jr. Once Duterte certified the bill as urgent, Congress will be able to pass it on the second and third reading, all in the same day.
Currently, only by a tripartite agreement with the National Government and suppliers can the Local Government buy the COVID-19 vaccines. Roque said it has to be amended for the local government to be able to pay in advance.
Furthermore, Roque guaranteed that even though some local government is procuring their vaccines, the National Government is prepared to purchase the COVID-19 doses needed for everyone still.
The government is confident that the arrival of vaccines and the vaccination process would begin this month, despite the delay of the Pfizer vaccines delivery to the country.
“The timetable will remain. Our timetable is (to inoculate) 50 to 70 million (Filipinos) within the year,” Roque said.
“With regard to Sinovac, we are still hopeful that the delay is only about one week; but in any case, there is a written letter from no less than the COVAX Facility saying that delivery will be in mid-February,” he added.
Roque said that they anticipated the arrival of the Sinovac vaccines this February 23 and the Pfizer vaccines can be acquired through the COVAX facility which, can be purchased before February 23.
“We cannot tell with precision when the vaccines purchased through the COVAX Facility would arrive but for sure, we can start within the month of February," Roque said.
When asked what was holding up the actual agreement for the signing of purchases of the vaccines, Roque answered that the term sheet is a "perfected contract." and they are only waiting for the contract of sale.
“It is also a perfected contract because the consent, object and consideration are complete... We are just waiting for the contract of sale,” he said.
LGU's SEEKS TO APPEAL AN EXECUTIVE ORDER
Many LGUs are seeking for the President to pass an executive order. To give the LGUs the authority for the advance payment of the COVID-19 vaccines, as this will enable them to vaccinate their residents already.
114 member-cities of the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) said in a resolution dated last February 14, that the vaccine acquisition is due on February 24, based on the agreement they signed for tripartite.
The local executive body cited the Presidential Decree 1445, which said: “cities need an express authorization and issuance from President Duterte such as an executive order allowing them to procure vaccines and proceed with the required advance payment market provisions in their respective agreements with the pharmaceutical companies."
“LCP members seek the urgent action of the Office of the President to issue the necessary executive order at the soonest possible time,” the resolution stated.
Though the resolution did not include which cities seek the approval of the executive order, it did mention that these cities had a tripartite agreement with AstraZeneca, which was incorporated under the "A Dose of Hope Program" this January 14.
The resolution was sent to several offices which included the Office of the Executive Secretary, Department of Budget and Management, Commission on Audit, Department of Health, Department of the Interior and Local Government, National Task Force against COVID-19, and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
HOUSE COMMITTEE APPROVE A TAX RELIEF FOR LGU
The House Committee finally approved the tax provision for the bill that authorizes the LGU to purchase the COVID-19 vaccines directly from pharmaceutical companies, this February 15.
The House Bill 8648 Section 6 was stamped with approval by the panel. Included in section 6 is for the LGUs to provide tax exemptions for the procurement, importation, storage, transport, distribution, and administration of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.
Meaning, the vaccines the LGU has acquired will exempt from its custom duties, value-added tax, excise tax, and other fees provided that the doses “shall only be used for their residents and constituents and not for commercial distribution.”
The panel headed by Albay Rep. Joey Salceda agreed with House Bill 8648, which accelerates the purchasing and the vaccination procedures should the LGU's directly buys from foreign manufacturers.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, the author of the bill, stated that this would assure that the vaccines will be "procured and administered in an expeditious, effective, efficient and equitable manner.”
“The next crucible in the fight against the pandemic is the speedy procurement and effective administration of vaccines against the deadly disease,” the Marinduque congressman said.
“Time is of the essence. Each day of delay is very costly for the government and leaves many of our vulnerable countrymen exposed to the dangers of this disease.”
The Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte asks the vaccination program officials to speed up training the personnel of the LGUs in the proper storage, handling, and administration of the vaccines needed. Asking it to be made a top priority.
“In CamSur, we already have a list of the priority beneficiaries across the province as well as the list of frontliners who are to administer the vaccines,” Villafuerte said.
He pointed out that this will avoid wasting the doses. Also, enable the government to follow through the plan to innoculate 70 million Filipino adults by the end of the year 2021.
“Our frontliners need to be properly trained on how to administer the shots. LGU staff should also be trained on the proper storage of the meds. Another thing is that there are certain municipalities that have no adequate cold storage facilities to keep the vaccines,” he added.
Furthermore, Villafuerte said, “Based on reports, the government plans to start the vaccination program once the vaccines from the COVAX Facility arrive. Frontline health care workers caring for patients in high-risk areas will be given top priority in the initial rollout.”
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