Proposed ‘Mega Vaccination Site’ Sparks Controversy Over Environmental and Legal Concerns

The mega vaccination center eyed at Nayong Pilipino is expected to accommodate around 10,000 vaccine recipients daily. The NPF board, however, opposes the facility as 500 ipil-ipil trees would have to be cut to give way to this infrastructure.

The proposed construction of a “mega vaccination site” in Parañaque owned by the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) sparked a controversy between the Duterte administration and the foundation itself along with environmental groups.

In a statement on Sunday, May 9, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr stressed on the importance of the project.

“We would like to emphasize that the government deeply cares for the environment, but as the pandemic wreaks havoc on the lives of our people and our economy, we have to make the choice. ‘Green and open spaces’ will be useless if there will be no one to visit them.”

On Thursday, the board said the abrupt cutting of nearly 500 Ipil-ipil trees, along with other site works on the property, will kill the existing ecosystem and negatively impact Metro Manila residents.

“The abrupt cutting of close to 500 trees and other site works on the NPF property will kill the existing ecosystem. Once lost, it could take decades to recover this ecosystem. A mega vaccination facility that will destroy this ecosystem would be a disaster and a disservice to the residents of Metro Manila who need more green and open spaces.”

NAyong Pilipino foundation

Galvez said, however, they believe it is “inappropriate” to equate the fate of 500 Ipil-Ipil trees with the lives of “hundreds of thousands if not millions” of Filipinos.

“Moreover, the proposed site of the facility is a reclaimed piece of land and not a protected forest or a marine sanctuary,” he added.

Galvez also reassured that the environmental impact of the project has been “carefully considered.”

“Considering Mr Palafox’s track record, we are confident that he has already factored in the environmental impact of the project in the design of the vaccination center. He said that he respects the environment and will make sure his firm’s design will reflect this belief,” said Galvez.

The ICTSI Foundation of billionaire Enrique Razon Jr, in charge of the vaccination center’s construction partnered up with architect Felino Palafox Jr, Galvez noted.

Apart from environmental matters, the NPF raised possible health risks for people set to receive vaccines, since a quarantine facility is also located at the Nayong Pilipino.

“A careful study of the design and ventilation systems for both are necessary to ensure there is no cross-contamination to take place,” the board said.

It also questioned the propriety of allowing a private institution, the ICTSI Foundation, to operate and manage the government property, “contrary to Presidential Decree No. 1445.” The foundation is part of tycoon Enrique Razon Jr.’s group of companies.

In response, Galvez pointed out that Razon has offered to build the facility at no cost to the national government.

Vouching for the billionaire’s integrity, Galvez added that Razon’s offer for help “reflects his deep concern for his countrymen and strong commitment to help the government in scaling up the nation’s COVID-19 response, mitigation and vaccination efforts.”

The vaccine czar further defended the project, saying that it is “inappropriate for the NPF to equate the fate of 500 ipil-ipil trees with the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of Filipinos.”

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