MANILA – The site of the proposed mega-vaccination facility within the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) property is reclaimed land and not an urban forest, port magnate Enrique Razon said.
Razon was responding to an earlier statement by the NPF that said the site for the proposed structure "is not a vacant lot but has a thriving urban forest that hosts a variety of urban wildlife."
Razon’s International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI) Foundation has secured government approval to build an 8 to 10-hectare mega-vaccination facility in the area ahead of the arrival of Moderna vaccines it ordered along with the private sector and the government.
The project will be constructed at no cost to the government.
Moderna doses arriving in June will be used within 24 hours upon arrival, Razon said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
“There’s a balance of at least 10 hectares at the Nayong Pilipino site, which by the way is reclaimed land that has been empty for more than 10 years. It’s an empty property where weeds have grown. It’s not what Atty. Malilong has been saying that it’s an urban forest. That’s a complete lie," Razon said.
"It’s going to get built and we will build it in time to get the inoculation of Moderna vaccine when it arrives," he added.
Former NPF executive director Atty. Lucille Karen Malilong-Isberto earlier said the land should be run by a government agency.
Placing a vaccine site next to a quarantine facility can also pose health risks, she said.
Razon said the project might have interrupted some plans for the property.
He said part of the NPF's property was formerly leased to a "questionable" firm in a controversial deal. President Rodrigo Duterte sacked the entire NPF board during the project's groundbreaking ceremony in 2018.
"It sounds like a smoke train to me. It’s like we’ve interrupted some plans they have, a suspicious plan they have, or a deal they’re making for that property," Razon said.
"They leased it to a questionable company, the CEO has been arrested in China, by the way, to build a massive integrated resort. Landing (International) fenced out the property and leveled and bulldozed the whole place already 2 and a half years ago. So I don’t know what they’re talking about, Ipil ipil trees?" he added.
It also makes more sense to build a vaccination site instead of distributing the vaccines to local governments, Razon said since Moderna vaccines require special handling and temperature requirement.
Environmentalists suggested that a park should be built there instead, to which the tycoon responded: "People can’t even go to a park because of lockdown. Let’s vaccinate the people. When vaccination ends, they can build whatever they want there."
The Philippines plans to inoculate 70 million of its over 100 million population through its vaccine drive which started in March.
Razon said it has to be done quickly in order to achieve herd immunity and reopen the economy.