House adds P5.5B allocation for future COVID-19 vaccine purchase

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 20 2020 03:32 PM

A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. Dado Ruvic, Reuters/file

MANILA — Around P5.5 billion of funds were realigned in next year's spending plan to bankroll the expected procurement of coronavirus vaccine, a House leader said Tuesday, following criticisms that the initial P2.5 billion was insufficient to inoculate the population. 

House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez told House reporters Tuesday that the "realignment" was part of the "institutional amendments" introduced in the "small committee" created after the House approved the 2021 General Appropriations Bill on final reading. 

"This is to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s program to strengthen the country’s health care system. We believe that vaccine plays a very crucial role in keeping the population safe and healthy from the pandemic," Romuladez said in a statement. 

This brings the total allocation for vaccine purchase to P8 billion.

The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday lamented that the initial allocation of P2.5 billion was not enough, as they sought an additional P10 billion. According to the agency’s estimate, DOH will need around P12.1 billion to procure the vaccines, Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergaire said.

Earlier Tuesday, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said that if the P2.5 billion is not enough to cover enough vaccine procurement, the government can take a loan from LandBank and the Development Bank of the Philippines. 

The House was targeting to transmit the final version of the General Appropriations Bill, "containing the P20 billion institutional amendments," on October 28, said Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, a member of the small committee.

However, questions have been raised if the small committee can introduce "amendments" to the plenary-approved GAB before it is transmitted for Senate scrutiny.

On Friday, Senator Panfilo Lacson said it was unlawful to amend the national budget after it was passed on third and final reading.

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