P5.5 B for purchase of COVID-19 vaccines OK’d in GAB
Some P5.5 billion in the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) will be set aside for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines, House Ways and Means Committee chairman Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said Monday.
(Albay Rep. Joey Salceda’s office / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)Salceda, in a virtual press briefing, said the allocation comes in the form of institutional amendments to the GAB of which a total of P20 billion was approved by the House small committee.
He said the vaccine allocation was the single biggest item among the budget amendments.“Actually it came from the Speaker (Lord Allan Velasco). May listahan siyang pina-consider sa amin pero hindi naman namin lahat sinunod (He gave us a list to consider but we didn’t follow all of it),” said Salceda.
He said the P5.5 billion will be added to the P2-billion fund for vaccines that solons set aside earlier.“The needs are fairly obvious eh. Why is the biggest item for vaccines? I don’t think there will be any argument that you need to fund vaccines beyond the P2 billion,” the Bicolano said.
Acknowledging that the funds aren’t huge, Salceda said the P20 billion under the National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF) may be tapped for the purchase of vaccines. “Because pandemic is defined under RA (Republic Act) 10121 as a disaster.”Salceda pegged the cost of the as yet unavailable vaccine at P700 per shot. He said Filipinos with comorbidities and senior citizens would be prioritized for the vaccine in order to maximize the limited funds.
The Philippines has an estimated population of 110 million people.Salceda also bared that the institutional amendments to the budget measure would include P2 billion worth of “pandemic assistance to afflicted families.”He said another P300 million will be funneled to the Department of Health for “mental health” purposes – something that presumably is also meant to mitigate the ongoing public health crisis.
Meanwhile, the second largest item among the amendments is the P4-billion allocation to the Department of Labor and Employment. It will be used for the benefit of workers displaced by the pandemic, Salceda said. Read more: Manila Bulletin News »
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