MANILA - Vaccination against COVID-19 is the "only solution" the country has in jumpstarting its economy, a senator said Monday.
The Philippines last week began its immunization drive against the coronavirus following the arrival of vaccines from Chinese drugmaker Sinovac and global alliance COVAX Facility.
The Senate approved a measure expediting the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines to give "power and flexibility" to local governments and the private sector to help the nation government, said Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian.
"I think everyone shares the same feeling, the vaccine should come in as fast as it can. This is the only solution we have to jumpstart the economy," he told ANC's Headstart.
"The only solution is the vaccine, that’s why the Senate approved the vaccine bill...We need the local governments, we cannot do this too centralized. We need the local governments to help buy and distribute the vaccines."
The local governments and the private sector have so far procured 17 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca expected to be delivered mid-2021.
There is "no point" in crafting a third COVID-19 stimulus measure, he added.
"I don’t see the point for Bayanihan 3. The 2021 budget is the Bayanihan 3...The items there are the items recommended by the executive department to jumpstart the economy, help the MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises), and help rollout the vaccines," he said.
"Some of the items in Bayanihan 2 are still waiting to be disbursed...I think one of the most important things is not only approving the law but pushing for the full implementation of the law."
The chamber is working on a guide bill which will "give government additional firepower to lend to MSMEs and strategic businesses," he added.
The country's economy last year registered a -9.5 percent growth, its first contraction since 1998's 0.5 percent decline due to the Asian financial crisis.
The economic downturn was also worse than the 7 percent contraction recorded in 1984, making it the steepest post-war slump in Philippine history, using available PSA data dating back to 1947.