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Senate Committee of the Whole to tackle gov’t vaccination program



The Senate Committee of the Whole is set to convene on Tuesday, 15 June to discuss the status of the government’s nationwide inoculation program, Senator Panfilo Lacson said on Friday.

According to Lacson, Senate President Vicente Sotto III has already informed senators on the hearing targeted to tackle the request of Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado for an additional P25-billion budget for the administration’s vaccine procurement program.

If approved, it will increase the current budget of P82.5-billion fund under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act or Bayanihan 2 to P107.5-billion.

“SP [Sotto] already served a notice that on Tuesday, we will have a Senate Committee of the Whole hearing,” the senator said in a television interview.

Based on the calculations of Lacson, the Philippines will have a surplus on vaccine supplies if the requested budget will be approved.

Assuming the government will procure China’s Sinovac vaccines, the lawmaker said around 107.5-million doses can be purchased with the budget. Around 83-million doses, meanwhile, will be bought if Moderna.

The figures will buff up the country’s stockpile together with the 20 million coronavirus jabs procured by the private sector and local government units (LGU) and the 44-million doses to be donated by the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility.

The Philippines is targeting to have 50 to 70 million Filipinos immunized from the dreaded virus to achieve herd immunity.

To keep track of the vaccination program, the Senate will exercise its oversight function to review how the involved agencies spent the funds for the vaccination.

On 5 June, Avisado said the administration needs P25-billion more to fund the massive vaccination program.

Lacson, along with Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Francis Pangilinan, pressed for a committee of the whole inquiry earlier to ensure transparency in the spending of billions of budget for vaccine procurement.

Senators, czars met anew

Relatedly, Lacson said he and senators Sotto and Ronald dela Rosa met with contact tracing czar Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong and testing czar Vince Dizon  on Thursday night who vowed to accelerate the government’s inoculation program.

Among the salient points raised during the meeting are the outdated data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the opening of the mega-vaccination site at the Nayong Plipino Park in Parañaque City in August.

Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. was also invited to the meeting but had to back out to take charge in the arrival of three million doses of vaccines set to arrive in the Philippines.

It is the second meeting between the government officials after they first had the discussion on 7 May.