MANILA, Philippines –The House of Representatives’ decision to augment the funding for the government’s purchase of COVID-19 vaccines next year is an expression of the Lower Chamber’s all-out support to President Duterte’s bid to further strengthen the country’s health care system in this time of pandemic.
Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez said that with the move of the small committee to set aside P5.5 billion for the purchase of vaccines, the government’s funding for such purpose now amounts to P8 billion.
“This is to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s program to strengthen the country’s health care system. We believe that vaccines play a very crucial role in keeping the population safe and healthy from the pandemic,” he said.
Romualdez leads the small panel that is in charge of institutional amendments to the proposed P4.5 trillion 2021 national budget.
“We are working diligently to fulfill our constitutional duty of ensuring that funding for a safe and effective vaccine to control COVID-19 is guaranteed and will be available to Filipinos,” Romualdez said.
Initially, some P2.5 billion have been included in the proposed national budget for 2021 for COVID-19 vaccines, especially in the spending plan of the Department of Health (DOH).
Romualdez said the P5.5 billion additional funding for the procurement of the vaccines is among the P20 billion institutional amendments made by the small committee in the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
He noted that his panel agreed to consider only institutional amendments and departmental errata.
He added that the individual amendments will be accommodated during the bicameral conference committee when both the House and Senate come up with the final version of the spending measure.
The Lower Chamber is seeking to transmit to the Senate the soft copy of the House-approved GAB containing its P20-billion institutional amendments on October 28.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the House really intended to increase the funding for the purchase of vaccines, considering that the initial P2.5 billion allocation will only cover three percent of the country’s population of more than 100 million.
He noted that to support President Duterte’s wish to inoculate at least 20 million poor Filipinos, the House should step in and increase the initial funding of P2.5 billion for the purchase of vaccines.