MANILA - The Nayong Pilipino Foundation is not opposed to building a mega COVID-19 vaccination facility on the park's property, its former executive director said Tuesday, but noted several concerns about the proposal.
The ICTSI Foundation, which is the corporate social responsibility arm of billionaire Enrique Razon Jr's global port operating firm, earlier offered to build the vaccination facility at no cost.
Atty. Lucille Karen Malilong-Isberto, who resigned last week following the issue, said the state-run park operator required strict compliance with all laws before constructing such facility on reclaimed government land.
"Actually, we gave our approval for the use of the land as a vaccination facility on April 8. What we ask is that we follow all the legal processes for use of the land under an emergency," she told ANC.
Malilong-Isberto noted that the law requires "that the use of public land should be public, which means it should be a government agency running it."
"In this case, we were waiting for DOH (Department of Health). It would be illegal for Nayong Pilipino to give the land for free use to ICTSI Foundation on the basis of a mere letter and a YouTube video," she said.
"So, what we want is for the law to be followed, which means that the memorandum of agreement should be with the proper government agency and should be clear as to what exactly will be done in Nayong Pilipino," she added.
In an earlier statement, the NPF, a government-owned and controlled corporation, said Nayong Pilipino also hosts a quarantine facility for patients with COVID-19.
"A mega-vaccination center close onsite, next to the quarantine facility may pose a health risk on both healthy individuals securing their vaccines. A careful study of the design and ventilation systems for both are necessary to ensure there is no cross-contamination to take place," it said.
It also said the proposed site of the vaccination hub "is not a vacant lot but has a thriving urban forest that hosts a variety of urban wildlife and is the last remaining grassland in the reclaimed area of Parañaque."
"The site is a bird flyway network and is close to the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area or protected wetlands under the Ramsar Convention, to which the Philippines is a signatory," the agency said on its website.
The foundation warned that the cutting of almost 500 trees and other site works would "kill the existing ecosystem."
"Once lost, it could take decades to recover this ecosystem. A mega-vaccination facility that will destroy this ecosystem would be a disaster and a disservice to the residents of Metro Manila who need more green and open spaces," reads the statement.
In the interview, Malilong-Isberto said she left her post because she did not "like being rushed into doing things that are iffy."
"When we first met the President, this is the board that's the replacement of the controversial board. He said 'Just follow the law and do the right thing.' So, we're just doing that. We want to make sure that all the laws are followed especially in light of the history of Nayon and all the scandals it was involved in. So, we want strict compliance with all laws," she said.
In 2018, Duterte fired all board members of NPF after it found that its lease deal with a Hong Kong casino developer was disadvantageous to government.