Senate moves to replace 'vaccine passport' with 'COVID-19 vaccine card'

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 22 2021 10:53 PM | Updated as of Feb 23 2021 12:03 AM

MANILA - The Philippine Senate has adopted to replace the controversial terminology, “vaccine passport”, with “COVID-19 vaccine card” during the period of amendments on Monday on the proposed measure expediting the procurement and administration of coronavirus vaccines.

This, after some senators led by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III opposed the use of the term “passport”, as it “connotes or affects mobility” and may be construed as discriminatory.

Three of its seven authors namely, senators Pia Cayetano; Ramon Revilla, Jr.; and Grace Poe have proposed the creation of the ‘Vaccination Passport Program’ with inoculated individuals issued a “vaccine passport” as proof of COVID-19 vaccinations they have received. 

“This is a way that… tourism and travel, even essential travel, can be implemented because this will again give confidence to people that it is safe for them to move around; there are also private companies who are building these passports, certificates, cards for the very same reason 

“My colleagues, this is not a new principle, this is existing as we speak… this is inevitable, this is going to happen, and there’s no desire here to discriminate people from essential services, but when it becomes a privilege, for example, a remote island where they use to earn a lot of income for tourism, they might want to say, ‘sige, we want the economy to open up, we want tourists to come, but you know what we want to limit it to those who’ve been vaccinated’, I think that is their right,” Cayetano explained in Monday’s session.

As for Poe, she stressed,”the intention here is not to charge extra also of our countrymen; this will be given to them for free.”

“And a lot of our countrymen — maybe all over the world, many of our countrymen are working as overseas workers and this will give them an advantage: a certificate that is issued by government and is recognized by our government. I think it’s forward-thinking, it’s not discriminatory because the wording is, ‘you may present it’, it not not like you have to present it,” Poe added. 

In the end, the authors and the sponsor of the proposed measure, Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, adopted the perceived safer alternative term, “vaccine card”. 

SECTION ON PENALTIES REMOVED

The Senate also adopted to remove an entire section on penalties in relation to the issuance of the “vaccine card”, after Minority Leader Franklin Drilon pointed out the Revised Penal Code (RPC) already provides more stringent penalties. 

The stricken off section provided a penalty of 3-10 years imprisonment and a fine of not less than P15,000 but not more than P60,000 for the defacing, mutilating, altering or destroying of the “vaccine card”; and possessing more than one valid “vaccine card”.

Imprisonment of 6-10 years and a fine between P30,000 and P90,000 was also originally provided in the bill for any person who uses or attempts to use a “vaccine card” intended for another holder; falsifying the card; knowingly using a falsified card; and distributing falsified cards. 

As of February 22, the Philippines recorded 563,456 positive COVID-19 cases, with 12,094 deaths and 522,874 recoveries.

The proposed legislation authorizes the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) to undertake negotiated procurement of the coronavirus vaccines and ancillary supplies and services, effectively allowing the DOH and NTF to enter into supply agreements, advance market commitments, research investments, purchase orders, advance payments, among others. 

It also allows local government units (LGUs) to procure vaccines and ancillary supplies, under prescribed guidelines from the NTF and Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Diseases (IATF). 

The period of amendments will resume on Tuesday, 1:30 pm, after session was suspended past 9 pm Monday.

 Its other authors are Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and senators Christopher Lawrence Go and Imee Marcos.

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