House panel OKs bill allowing local gov't to buy tax-free COVID-19 vaccine

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 15 2021 04:10 PM

House panel OKs bill allowing local gov't to buy tax-free COVID-19 vaccine 1
A worker performs a quality check in the packaging facility of Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, developing an experimental coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, during a government-organized media tour in Beijing, China, Sept. 24, 2020. Thomas Peter, Reuters/File

MANILA - The House Ways and Means Committee on Monday approved a bill that would allow local government units (LGU) to import COVID-19 vaccines tax free.

The panel passed House Bill No. 8648 "to complement the government’s strategy of procuring COVID-19 vaccines as quickly as possible," House Ways and Means Committee chair Joey Sarte Salceda said in a statement.

"The tariff rate for vaccines is actually just 1 percent," he said.

"It’s not really about the savings, although the exemption will allow them to buy slightly more vaccines. It’s the amount of processing that the local governments will save from this bill that I think is what matters more," he said.

Salceda said the national government has to set clear guidelines as to how LGUs can procure, store, and administer vaccines in the most efficient manner possible. 

"There has to be some way to cluster individual LGU procurements so that we can benefit from economies of scale," he said.

"That will be especially useful in storage, since we can have shared storage facilities for LGUs," he said, noting that he plans to file a bill on shared storage facilities for COVID-19 jabs.

The Department of Health also has to be clear about vaccination guidelines, and has to help LGUs meet these standards, Salceda said.

"Although I would have preferred that we benefit from purchasing in bulk, LGUs tend to process procurement faster," he said.

"There has to be more serious effort to help LGUs meet the standards and the standards have to be clear from the very beginning, so that we save time from useless back-and-forth," he said.

The national government earlier said it plans to complete the Philippines' COVID-19 vaccination program in 2023.

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