DOF assures enough funds for free COVID-19 vaccine for 20M Filipinos

Robie de Guzman   •   July 31, 2020   •   385

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Finance (DOF) assured that the Philippine government has enough funds to purchase millions of doses of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine once it becomes available.

In a briefing in Malacañang aired on Friday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said they have prepared a financing plan to procure COVID-19 vaccines with the help of the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC).

The PITC, an agency under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) engaged in trading and bulk importation of essential goods for the government, has been tasked to manage the financing efforts for the vaccines.

Researchers and scientists across the world are racing to develop vaccines against the viral respiratory disease as cases continue to spike.

Dominguez said a COVID-19 vaccine could be approved by December this year.

He said the vaccines will be purchased through the PITC and turned over to the DOH.

“Once that happens, the Department of Health now will put in their budget to pay these 400 million dollars or roughly P20 billion,” the finance chief said.

“We can pay them over 2 or 3 years, so babayaran lang nila with the financing companies which is LandBank and DPB, so kayang-kaya ng DPB at ng LandBank na i-finance itong purchase ng COVID vaccine,” he added.

This way, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said, the government won’t have to sell properties to finance the purchase of vaccines.

“Kaya po ipinapadaan sa PITC, Philippine International Trade Corporation, dahil para po sila po ang in effect directly na manghihiram mula sa DPB and LandBank,” he said.

“’Yung sinasabi ni Sec. Domiguez, ang may pondo na magpapahiram dito po sa isang government corporation who will execute the importation or the buying ng mga vaccines na ito, para po ang PITC ang magsu-supply sa DOH,” he added.

The vaccines will be administered to the poorest 20 million Filipinos for free.

If each of the 20 million poor Filipinos will need two shots, Dominguez said an estimated P20 billion fund would be needed.

The DTI, however, clarified that this figure is only initial and will be increased based on DOH’s recommendation.

Private companies wanting to secure financing to procure COVID-19 vaccines may do so through the PITC, Secretary Lopez said.

“Maaaring intial po yun dun sa poorest of the poor na communities. Of course, beyond that ang private sector naman po pwede ring makabili padaanin din dito sa PITC para makakuha ng tayo ng volume purchasing o volume discount,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Joan Nano)

COVID-19 vaccine approval in PH possible in April 2021 – FDA

Robie de Guzman   •   September 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday said the approval of a vaccine against novel coronavirus disease may be possible in April 2021.

During a virtual press briefing, FDA Director General Eric Domingo said this is “the best case scenario” if clinical trials are completed on schedule.

“If clinical trials are completed by December or January, and a company would file an application with FDA, it’s possible that by April 2021 we will have an approved vaccine,” he said.

“Talagang best case scenario yun, meaning yung three to six months, magiging three months; assuming that they will complete all their analysis and submitted immediately to FDA,” he added.

In the same briefing, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said the time period of three to six months is the experts’ estimate on the completion of Phase III clinical trials for vaccine candidates.

“When they say 3-6 months, we prefer to use the longer forecast in our estimates. That would indicate in that period they would have finished clinical trials and probably already submitted to FDA their application and results of their trials,” he said.

Dela Peña said the World Health Organization (WHO) is set to release its list of selected vaccines and protocols in October and that the fastest that they can start the clinical trials will be in the last quarter of 2020.

“The vaccine trials according to experts will range from 3 to 6 months. I think the very early forecast that we have of second quarter 2021 is still the best forecast we can give,” he said.

The DOST said the Philippines is currently negotiating with 17 vaccine developers from other countries and six of them have already signed confidentiality disclosure agreements that would allow the sharing of their earlier trial results.

Among the six vaccine developers are Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute and China’s Sinovac.

The FDA earlier promised it would expedite the approval procedures but assured that no steps will be skipped to ensure public’s health and safety. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

LTO sets up guidelines for registration of e-scooters

Marje Pelayo   •   September 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has pushed governments to impose transport restrictions to curb virus transmission among commuters.

As an alternative to common modes of transportation, the public resorted to old-school bicycles and its modern counterparts — the e-scooter and e-bikes.

Such vehicles have been helpful to some especially healthcare professionals and other essential workers who are spared from facing the hassle of commuting to work on mass transportation and the risk of infection that it entails.

“Iyong convenience ng e-scooter? Never na ako nag-commute ulit ever since October 2019,” said Syd Henrie Arriesgado, an occupational therapist who goes to work on his e-scooter.

“Pupunta ako sa work, nag-i e-scooter na lang ako,” he added.

Syd is one of the many individuals who now own such a vehicle but are not covered by any transport regulation at the moment. 

This is why, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) is now drafting a guideline that will regulate the use of e-scooters by updating the provisions of Republic Act 4136 or the Act to Compile the Laws Relative to Land Transportation and Traffic Rules.

Under the existing law, any vehicle that uses oil fuel or electricity must be registered and the owner should possess a valid license.

The LTO also stressed that the use of e-scooters must be governed by a certain law since it is small in size and requires balancing which is prone to accidents.

The agency is awaiting the approval of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on the proposed guidelines.

“Una, kailangan may lisensya o rehistrado. Pangalawa, kung saan pwedeng gamitin, anong klaseng lansangan pwedeng gamitin. Pangatlo ano ang kailangang protective gear na suot nila para naman kung hindi ma-prevent ay mabawasan ang injuries,” explained LTO Chief and DOTr Undersecretary Edgar Galvante.

But an e-scooter advocate group, “Electric Kick Scooter” questioned the timing of the guideline’s release.

“I can’t really take it against LTO. Mandato ng Constitution but the thing is it’s really bad timing during this pandemic season. Ang mga frontliners ito ang ginagamit na mode of transportation,” argued Tim Vargas, the group’s chairman.

Galvante on the other hand, said, “Hindi dito iniisip ang ill-timing. Kung ang kino-consider siguro ay safety, wala ritong tamang timing.”

The LTO, however, cannot tell yet as to when the guidelines will be released, but assured the public of prompt issuance once DOTr greenlights the proposal. MNP (with reports from Joan Nano)

Bureau of Customs steps up drive vs rice smuggling

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is ramping up its campaign against rice smuggling even amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic by conducting raids on warehouses suspected of storing illegally imported grains following reports from concerned citizens, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

In a statement on Tuesday, the DOF said that Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero has assured Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III that rice stocks imported by private traders during the pandemic would still be subject to “post-modification and post audit.”

This system will ensure that undervalued shipments are properly assessed and subsequently paid with the correct amount of duties and taxes.

Guerrero also said he had informed the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) that because rice is considered a “critical” commodity, traders were allowed to avail of the Provisional Goods Declaration in processing their shipments at this time of the coronavirus pandemic.

The FFF earlier questioned the BOC’s assessment and valuation system on the entry of rice imports.

“The BOC has found the valuation of several rice shipments with provisional goods declaration to be quite low compared to the prevailing market prices,” Guerrero said in his report to Dominguez.

“But those are subject to post-modification and post-audit. And in the meantime, we are still conducting the post-modification, verifying the payments of rice because some of them are clearly undervalued. So we will catch up in the post modification and post-audit,” he added.

Under Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 07-2020, if the Customs district/sub-port collector accepts a provisional goods declaration, the duty and tax treatment of the goods under provisional declaration will not be different from that of goods with complete declaration.

For the release of shipments under tentative assessment, the importer will be required to post the required security, whether in the form of surety bond or cash bond.

Guerrero said the customs bureau has also responded to reports by concerned citizens regarding warehouses suspected of storing smuggled rice stocks by immediately issuing letters of authority to enable BOC officers to inspect such warehouses and seize goods without the requisite importation permits.

“We actually raided them and we found out that many of these warehouses were operating legally and their stocks are covered by proper documents,” Guerrero said.

REACH US

The Philippine Broadcast Hub

UNTV, 915 Barangay Philam,

EDSA, Quezon City M.M. 1104

(+632) 8396-8688 (Tel)

info@untv-newsandrescue.com (General inquiries)

ABOUT UNTV

UNTV is a major TV broadcast network with 24-hour programming. An Ultra High Frequency station with strong brand content that appeal to everyone, UNTV is one of the most trusted and successful Philippine networks that guarantees wholesome and quality viewing experience.