Duterte wants free anti-COVID-19 vaccine priority for poor

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, in his Talk-to-the-People Address last night, expressed his desire for all Filipinos to be vaccinated against COVID-19, giving priority to the poor, particularly those included in the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps, according to the Palace.

“Uunahin na mabigyan ng libreng bakuna ang mga Pilipinong kasama sa listahan ng Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Jr.

Secretary Roque added that the Chief Executive wants all Filipinos to get the COVID-19 vaccine for free. “Alam nyo po, sang-ayon po dun sa ating Universal Health Care, pu-puwede po talagang mabigyan ang lahat ng libre. Pero dahil alam natin na magiging limitado initially ang vaccine eh uunahin po natin ang mga mahihirap.”

The Palace official noted, however, that some may have to pay for the vaccine, especially those who can afford to pay for it. “Hindi naman po ganoon kamahal ang estimate natin sa bakuna. Ang estimate ni Sec. [Carlos] Dominguez, $10 per dose at kinakailangan dalawang dosage, so $20 per person,” said Secretary Roque.

“So 20 million initially po ang bibilhin natin para sa mahirap at para po sa ating kapulisan, military and frontliners,” added Sec. Roque.

On where will the government get the funding needed for the procurement of the vaccines, Roque said that the funding scheme for getting the vaccines has long been set. “Habang wala pa pong pantaunang budget for 2021, uutangin po natin yan sa Landbank at saka sa DBP at iaangkat ng PITC. Pero pagsipa po ng 2021 at kung maipapasa naman po ang 2021 budget, nakapaloob na po itong halagang ito dun sa budget po na prinopose natin sa Kongreso,” Roque explained.

Roque added that the budget for the 40 doses of vaccines at USD10 each for 20 million individuals, which is roughly at P2 billion, is a small amount in relation to the country’s total national budget. However, if all Filipinos will be targeted for the free vaccines, then it would cost the government a relatively large amount.

“Since we are nation of 130 million more or less, medyo malaki-laking halaga yun kung 20 million is already P2 billion. Roughly we would need around USD12 billion kung ililibre natin lahat,” said Roque.

National Action Plan on COVID-19 Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. said in the same press briefing that there has been a significant decline in the active COVID-19 cases in the country. Secretary Galvez reported that from a peak of 88,000 active cases in August 15, the active cases are now averaging at only 46,000.

Similarly, Galvez said that active cases in the National Capital Region has significantly declined from some 20,000 active cases to more or less 7,830 active cases, as reported by the Metro Manila Development Authority. He said that this translates to a drop from around 26 percent to only 6 percent active cases now.

Meanwhile, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chair Martin Delgra III discussed the implementation of the one-seat apart rule, among other issues related to public transportation.

Chair Delgra said that 44 more routes have been opened up in Metro Manila and that some 68-69 percent of public utility vehicles in the National Capital Region are now plying the routes again.

In terms of expanding the operations of provincial buses, Delgra said that more inter-regional routes will be opened in the coming weeks, including the Davao to Metro Manila route and the route to and from Mabalacat, Pampanga. He said that there are initially 12 provincial bus routes that are coming in and from Metro Manila to neighboring provinces in Regions 3 and 4, and that more routes are yet to be opened through coordination with various local government units.(OPS-PCOO)