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NTF Covid statements confusing senators

Michelle R. Guillang



Senator Panfilo Lacson thinks that the National Task Force (NTF) for Covid-19 response is deliberately confusing the lawmakers due to a number of conflicting statements made during the recent Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on the government’s overall vaccination plan.

He particularly pointed out inconsistencies in the responses of vaccine czar and NTF for Covid-19 response implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. when asked about the prices of the anti-Covid-19 vaccines they government to procure.

“They are trying to twist the story, their answers keep changing, very tentative. It seems like they are deliberately confusing us,” Lacson said during a radio interview on Saturday.

Even as simple as the price of the vaccines cannot be answered by Galvez, he said, as the latter cited the non-disclosure agreement which they had signed with the vaccine manufacturer.

“Why wouldn’t they share such information when it is us who would appropriate the funds for the national government?” he asked.

The Senate inquiry also paved the way for the senators to learn that the allocated funds under the 2021 General Appropriations Act, Bayanihan 2 and the regular budget is “too much.”

“Why would they keep the prices confidential? Why are they not being transparent to how much really is the obligation of the national government for the inoculation program?” he stressed.

“At first, they said COVAX facility would give us up to 50 percent discount, then it turned out they (COVAX facility) will provide us 44 million doses (of vaccines) for free,” he explained.

The vaccines, he noted, are donations of the World Health Organization and rich countries in the European Union to developing countries like the Philippines.

“It was also found that out of the targeted 70 million Filipinos in the vaccination program, the government would only need to spend for the vaccination of about 36 million Filipinos,” Lacson said.

The country is expected to procure a total of 66.5 million doses of vaccine from COVAX facility (44-million doses donation); private sectors (8.5 million doses donation); and local government units (14-million doses), which will benefit at least 33 million Filipinos.

He also questioned the apparent preference of the Department of Health to China-developed Sinovac vaccines despite the absence of emergency use authorization.

“Vaccine procurement should be done government to government. But why are they in direct contact with the president of Sinovac?” he said.

Lacson said due to officials’ conflicting statements, it is possible that the Senate would once again conduct a Senate inquiry into the government’s inoculation program.

“We will review the transcripts and see what were the questions they tried to evade or did not want to answer,” he said.