MANILA (UPDATE 2) - The proposed mega vaccination facility within the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) property will push through, with a memorandum of agreement to be signed "very soon," Cabinet Sec. Karlo Nograles said Thursday.
The NPF earlier said the site "is not a vacant lot but has a thriving urban forest that hosts a variety of urban wildlife." In a statement, the foundation said cutting almost 500 trees and other works would "kill the existing ecosystem."
Port magnate Enrique Razon, whose International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI) offered to build the facility, said the property is reclaimed land and not an urban forest.
Asked if the mega facility is pushing through, Nograles said, "Yes, it is."
"Just the MOA to be signed and that MOA is forthcoming, just a few minor technical edits being done. It’s already been vetted by the Department of Tourism, been vetted by the Department of Health. It’s now going through our Government Corporate Counsel. Just a few minor edits and then it will be signed very, very soon," he told ANC's Headstart.
The construction for the vaccination center can start "immediately after the MOA is signed," he said.
Nograles said while "there may seem to be a lack of coordination" among agencies of government, that's not "entirely true." He said the inter-agency task force against COVID-19 discussed and approved this proposal.
The Department of Tourism, which is part of the IATF, did its due diligence and vetted the project. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which is also part of the task force, also studied the project, he said.
The site seemed "appropriate" because it was a reclaimed land that was not being utilized and was accessible because it's within Mega Manila, he said.
Citing reports from the DOT, Nograles also denied that a lush forest will be affected by the construction of this mega facility.
"Based on their reports to us, hindi naman po totoo na may lush forest na tatamaan diyan...In every aspect of the project, nandyan po ang DENR. They would be the first ones to tell us if that is true or false," he said.
"Yung environmental concerns that are being mentioned are entirely false. Hindi naman po totoo yan," he added.
(Based on their reports to us, it's not true that a lush forest will be affected there. In every aspect of the project, the DENR is there. They would be the first ones to tell us if that is true or false. The environmental concerns that are being mentioned are entirely false. Those are not true.)
Nograles also denied billionaire Razon was given special favors with this project. He said the government actively engages the private sector as it searches for vaccination sites.
"It’s not just Enrique Razon—but Robinsons Malls, SM Malls, all the other malls: their parking lots, hospitals, mega hospitals," he said.
The Philippines is rolling out its vaccination against COVID-19, with at least 70 million targeted to received the jab this year. The vaccination center at the Nayong Pilipino will reportedly accelerate inoculation by around 10,000 individuals daily.