MANILA - The government did not prioritize COVID-19 vaccination in the national budget for the coming year, the camp of Vice President Leni Robredo said on Sunday, following a statement from a lawmaker that only P2.5 billion had been guaranteed for vaccines in the 2021 General Appropriations Act.
Barry Gutierrez, Spokesman for the Office of the Vice President (OVP), said the government should have made vaccination a priority in next year’s spending plan, and already made deals with pharmaceutical firms to secure vaccine supplies.
“Walang sense of urgency,” Gutierrez said in the weekly radio program of the OVP.
(There's no sense of urgency.)
Gutierrez echoed the concern of Senator Franklin Drilon who earlier criticized what other lawmakers allotted for the planned COVID-19 vaccination program next year.
“So hindi ba dapat, priority natin itong bakuna? Kaya nga nakakagulat na hindi. Ito nga, iyong sinasabi ni Senator Frank Drilon na parang hindi—kahit nakalagay iyan sa budget, P72 billion, eh hindi pa klaro saan kukunin iyang pera na iyan,” Gutierrez said.
(Shouldn’t our priority be vaccines? It’s surprising that it’s not. This is what Sen. Franklin Drilon said, that it doesn’t seem to be a priority, even if it’s in the budget, P72 billion, but it’s not clear where the money will come from.)
Drilon said that while Congress authorized the executive branch to disburse P72.5 billion to buy COVID-19 vaccines next year, only P2.5 billion was guaranteed, while the remaining P70 billion needs to be sourced from loans or excess non-tax revenue collections.
Gutierrez warned that this would further bloat the country’s debt.
“Umaabot na ng ano ba, P10 trillion iyong ating utang itong taon na ito? Ano, iuutang na naman natin ito?”
(Our debt has already reached P10 trillion this year? Will we take out a loan for this again?)
He said that a vaccination program would ensure that the country could fully reopen its economy.
Senator Sonny Angara, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, has said that the executive branch has yet to give details about its plan to procure, store and distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
The government meanwhile said it expects to roll out vaccines against COVID-19 in the middle of 2021, according to vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr., noting the “scarcity of supply” in the global market.