MANILA - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Friday appealed to senators to increase the government's 2021 budget allocation for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
The Department of Health (DOH) will need P12.9 billion to "cover 20 million Filipinos for COVID-19 vaccination," but only P2.5 billion was included in the spending bill, Duque said during a budget hearing in the Senate.
"Sa kasalukuyang budget na P2.5 billion, eh mga 3.8 million pong mga katao ang mababakunahan," he said.
(with the current P2.5 billion, we can only vaccinate 3.8 million people.)
"Ang mas maganda po talaga ‘yung kagustuhan ni Pangulong Duterte na ‘yung 20 million na mga mahihirap na maisama po dito at, on that basis, kakailanganin po natin mga P12.9 billion budget to cover 20 million Filipinos for COVID-19 vaccination," he said.
(President Duterte's wish to include 20 million people in the program is better, and on that basis, we need a P12.9-billion budget to cover 20 million Filipinos for COVID-19 vaccination.)
The basis of the additional amount for the COVID-19 immunization program is based on the estimated P305 per dose price of the vaccine, the Health chief said.
Each person must receive 2 doses so the government is allotting P610 for every person who will receive the COVID-19 vaccine, he said.
If the budget will not be increased to cover 20 million Filipinos, the government will have to prioritize health workers and other frontliners for the vaccination program, he said.
Senate Committee on Health chair Christopher Go backed Duque's bid for additions funding for COVID-19 vaccines.
"Basta po gamitin lang natin sa tama at wasto ang pera na ipinagkatiwala po sa inyong departamento," Go said.
(Just used the funds entrusted to your department correctly.)
Sen. Imee Marcos noted that some senators are wary of increasing the health sector's budget after corruption allegations riddled the DOH and its attached agencies, particularly the Philippine Health Insurance Corp, which gave billions of COVID-19 funds to dialysis centers and maternity clinics.
Several senators earlier flagged the DOH's decision to allegedly procure overprices COVID-19 test kits and personal protective equipment for frontliners earlier this year.
Most of the 14 senators who signed a resolution calling for Duque's resignation over his alleged failure to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the Philippines skipped panel deliberations on the DOH's budget, saying they would reserve their questions during plenary debates.