The Senate, which voted 22-0, approved the second and third readings on Tuesday in a session of the Covid-19 vaccination program law, certified by the Palace, in a determined attempt to stop the spread of the deadly virus and reactivate the economy.
The President of the Senate, Vicente Sotto III, attributed to Senator Juan Edgardo Angara the presence of the multifaceted bill that was to be drafted with contributions from national and local government, health agencies and the private sector, among others. others. Sotto remarked on the rapid process by which such a complete and complicated bill only took two weeks to process.
The House of Representatives, which adopted its version earlier Monday night, immediately called for a copy of the bill passed by the Senate, opening the possibility of adopting it to avoid having to convene a bicameral conference committee and so on. expedite the filing of an invoice registered with the President to sign.
Angara, for her part, credited her senators to all senators and all interested resources and people, saying this ensured the rapid passage.
“We have done our part,” Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri said after the quick ground vote without any problems.
By sponsoring Senate Bill 2057, Angara was assured that the expected vaccination of the population would be quick after calling for support across the aisle with the full support of majority and minority senators for the vaccination program bill. .
The early enactment of enabling legislation after its signing into law by Duterte would facilitate the procurement of vaccines by the government, he added.
Angara said the speedy approval of the measure “will remove obstacles to the delivery of some of the first doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the country and accelerate the inoculation of Filipinos across the country.”
The senator, in a statement, acknowledged that “the entire nation is looking forward to the start of the vaccination program that carries the promise of immunization of the Covid-19 virus that has caused so much hardship and pain to all Filipinos this year. past “.
With the measure, “we hope to see the beginning of the inoculation of our population, starting with the priority sectors, in the shortest possible time,” Angara added, recalling that “as a people we have lost a lot due to the pandemic. terms of jobs, opportunities and human life. “
As soon as the bill is enacted into law, the national government, local government units (LGUs) and the private sector will be allowed to purchase vaccines through the National Task Force Against Covid-19 (NTF) and the Department of Health (DOH), said Angara.
He confirmed that LGUs will also be authorized to directly procure the supplies and ancillary services needed for the storage, transport and deployment of vaccines.
The senator noted that a significant number of LGUs have begun preparing for the launch of their respective vaccination programs and are awaiting the enactment of the bill to exempt them from the legal requirements regarding procurement of goods.
Angara said laws covered by the exemption include Republic Act 9184 or the Procurement Reform Act, Presidential Decree 1445 or the Philippine Government Audit Code and the Local Government Code. .
He noted that the enabling law “will provide legal coverage to LGUs, many of whom have left us aware of their concern about possible adverse conclusions from the Audit Committee and even graft cases that may be filed against the its officials “.
Angara also assured that for the private sector, its acquisition of vaccines will also be done in cooperation with the DOH and NTF, through a multi-party agreement.
In addition, a National Vaccine Compensation Fund will be established to compensate anyone inoculated through the Covid-19 vaccination program, in the event of death or for the treatment of possible serious adverse effects.
The law provides for a total of 500 million francs from the contingent fund of the General Credit Act of 2021 to increase the existing funds of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation as administrator of the compensation fund.
“The compensation fund will cover the compensation agreements with vaccine manufacturers, which NTF has begun to comply with. This removes a major obstacle to the delivery of vaccines in the country,” Angara said.
The legislator listed another provision of the bill that will help introduce more Covid-19 vaccines and other critical supplies into the country: exempting their purchases and imports from taxes and tariffs.
The version approved on Tuesday was the product of bills filed separately by Angara and Senator Imee Marcos, intended to exempt the acquisition of Covid-19 vaccines and the supplies needed for their storage, transportation and distribution of customs duties, value added tax, excise taxes, donor tax and other fees and charges.
In addition, the DOH, LGU and private entities will issue vaccination cards to vaccinated people. Vaccination cards will include basic information about the person; the manufacturer and brand of the vaccine administered; date of vaccination; date of last RT-PCR test; and the names of the facility where the vaccine was received and the health professionals who administered the vaccine.