MANILA – The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday said the government should expedite the Covid-19 vaccine rollout to help achieve herd immunity before the year ends and support the country’s economic recovery.

Time for bayanihan: Salceda urges gov’t to rush COVID-19 vaccine rollout

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MANILA – The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday said the government should expedite the Covid-19 vaccine rollout to help achieve herd immunity before the year ends and support the country’s economic recovery.

Committee chair Joey Salceda made the remark in response to the record 9.5 percent gross domestic product (GDP) contraction in 2020, the largest recorded economic decline in recent Philippine history.

“I urge the government to support the Bayanihan sa Bakuna Act (House Bill 8285) because it will expedite procurement, rollout, and administration of vaccines. No point in gradual reopening of the economy if we will not give people the confidence to go out” Salceda said.

Salceda said another solution is for the government to expedite spending by using both 2020 and 2021 budgets completely this year.

“No toleration of delays in spending should be tolerated. I sternly warn implementing agencies that Congress will hold you accountable for the budget requests you submitted but cannot spend,” Salceda added.

He also pushed for the passage of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) bill, the economic Charter change in the form of Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 2, as well as being more open to public-private partnerships that are fair.

“Finally, we need to signal the domestic and international investing communities that we are serious about being open for business,” he said. “CREATE and RBH2 combined will produce 7.7 million jobs over the next 10 years. But we need to get them done this year so that the initial investments start trickling in.”

Salceda said the country must prevent the long-term impacts of economic decline on future productivity.

“Our people are our best investments. If our young suffer from malnutrition now because of widespread hunger, we will suffer for generations. The future will be an information age. If the ability of the young to learn and be productive is limited now, we have a very concerning prospect,” Salceda said.

Once deemed a “darling” of investors in Southeast Asia, the Philippines posted its worst recession in 2020 after its economy shrank by 9.5 percent.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported on Thursday that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted anew in the fourth quarter, shrinking by 8.3 percent, to bring the full-year growth to -9.5 percent.

The slump in the country’s economy last year surpassed the previous record of a 7-percent contraction in 1984. (PNA)

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May parusa ‘pag umayaw! AFP requires soldiers to be vaccinated vs COVID-19

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday said coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) inoculation is mandatory for all of its personnel but they have the option to choose among vaccine brands other than Sinovac at their own expense.

“Thus, to get inoculated or not is not an option for the members of the AFP, it is a duty. At the most, the exercise of an option will be the option to as to what brand of vaccine they will be availing of, but the cost of which will not be paid by the AFP,” AFP spokesperson, Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in an online press briefing.

Malacañang earlier announced that the first batch of Sinovac Biotech vaccines composed of 600,000 doses donated by China is set to arrive on Sunday (Feb. 28), with 100,000 doses of which will be given to the Department of National Defense, the AFP’s mother agency.

Aside from military personnel, Arevalo added that their chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana has said that their dependents must be vaccinated.

Meanwhile, those opting for other vaccine brands who decided to forego their inoculation can do so but once they are called to duty to serve as front-liners, they will have no choice but to follow.

“They must perform their duties and task but they will have to resort to the traditional health protocol, mag-mask, mag-shield, maghugas ng kamay at mag-maintain ng social distance pansamantala habang hindi pa sila natuturukan ng vaccine na pinipili nila (like the wearing of mask, face shields, regularly washing their hands, and maintaining social distance while they are yet to be vaccinated with the brand of their choice),” Arevalo said.

Meanwhile, said AFP personnel assigned and performing duties that will expose them to Covid-19 patients are required to have themselves vaccinated with the available vaccines.

He added that the AFP will play three major roles in the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine — security, medical and logistics support operations. (PNA)

Payag ba sa barter? Bello waiting for UK’s response to PH offer to deploy more healthcare workers

MANILA – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is waiting for the response of the United Kingdom (UK) on its proposed provision of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine amid UK’s request for an exemption from the deployment cap of Filipino healthcare workers (HCWs).

In a telephone interview on Thursday, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said they expect the UK government to respond on the issue within 10 days.

“I told them for me to be able to recommend it to the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases), I have to be assured of the safety of our workers. The only way we can be assured about the safety of our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) is (through) the vaccine,” he said.

Bello said the UK may want to send the coronavirus vaccines so the country can immunize the nurses before they are deployed.

“For us to be able to send our medical workers, we want to ensure that they are safe and their health is secured. We don’t have the vaccine, if they want, they can send us (vaccine),” he added.

Bello said he did not provide specific quantities of the vaccines.

“Why not include all OFWs and not just HCWs. In case they are ready to give us the vaccines, I will give them the number of OFWs that will be vaccinated. I just want to be sure that those who will be deployed have received the vaccine,” he added.

The Philippine government is asking the UK and Germany to provide vaccines against Covid-19 for OFWs as part of the agreement in relation to the deployment of health service workers, particularly nurses.

The country has two bilateral agreements with the UK in 2002 and 2003.

The UK and Germany are seeking to be exempted from the 5,000 cap on the deployment of nurses being implemented by the government to ensure there is an adequate number of nurses in the country in case the need arises.

Meanwhile, Bello said he understands the reaction of the people on the issue.

“They thought I would barter our nurses with the vaccine. I just hope that before they accuse me, they should have asked me first and look at what really happened. They just criticized and what they are saying is not true,” he added. (PNA)

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