MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker has expressed her disappointment over the insufficient fund allocation for the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccine to cover 20 million Filipinos, saying the government seemed to have forgotten to earmark enough money for the pandemic response next year.
During House plenary deliberations on the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Health (DOH), Marikina City 2nd Dist. Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo pointed out that only P2.5 billion was appropriated for next year’s procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
Quimbo, an economist, noted that if each vaccine for an individual costs P600, this means that the P2.5 billion budget would only cover 3.9 million Filipinos. This, she emphasized, would be way short of President Rodrigo Duterte’s target of inoculating 20 million Filipinos against the new coronavirus.
“Ang tanong ulit, hindi ba napakaliit ng target number of Filipinos na mababakunahan? Number 2, ayon sa isang July report, ay kailangan two doses, pero parang ang naka-budget lang dito is for one dose,” Quimbo said.
“Parang napakaliit ng inyong pina-planong gastos para sa bakuna at ‘yan naman ay inaasahan natin na permanent solution sa pagkalat ng COVID,” she added.
Quimbo said credit rating agencies expect the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) to contract 9.9 percent due to failure to control the COVID-19 situation.
“Nakakapagtaka. Anong nangyari? Alam naman natin na ang 2021 budget ay isang COVID budget at alam naman natin na para makapag-recover ang ating ekonomiya, ang number 1 na kailangang natin ay i-handle ang pagkalat ng COVID,” Quimbo stressed.
“Paano nangyari na nakaligtaan natin na mag-budget ng sapat na amount para sa COVID?” the lawmaker added.
Zamboanga City 2nd Dist. Rep. Manuel Jose Dalipe, who was defending DOH’s proposed budget, admitted that funding for the COVID-19 vaccine was inadequate as the government will need P12.919 billion to vaccinate 20 million Filipinos.
This means that the government will need an additional P10.4 billion to achieve its target.
Dalipe, however, explained that the proposed 2021 budget was crafted before Duterte made public his desire to have 20 million Filipinos vaccinated.
“Nakita natin na noong ginagawa ‘yung budget call at that time at wala pang declaration ng Presidente, hindi pa po na-compute talaga,” Dalipe said.
Nonetheless, Dalipe agreed that the budget needs to be re-computed to come up with the amount covering Duterte’s target to have 20 million Filipinos inoculated against COVID-19.
On Wednesday, Duterte said that while the government already has the money to buy COVID-19 vaccines once they become available, it is still not enough.
“I have the money already for the vaccine, but I will still have to look for more money because you know there are now 130 million Filipinos. And to me ideally, all should have the vaccine — no exception,” Duterte said in a pre-recorded speech.
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