Gov’t officials not priority for COVID-19 vaccine – Duque

Marje Pelayo   •   December 25, 2020   •   307

MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has admitted that the year 2020 was the most difficult year for the Department of Health (DOH). 

“Basta ang masasabi ko ang 2020 is the most difficult year in the history of the Department. The most difficult,” he said emphasizing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as the biggest challenge facing the global health care system this year.

“Even the most powerful countries talagang pinaiyak ng COVID-19. Lahat talaga umiyak dito. Sobrang takot, pag-aalangan, sobrang maraming mga unknowns,” he added.

Despite all these, the Health Chief is grateful for the public’s efforts to combat the virus, and that he hopes that a vaccine will be available by 2021.

“Hindi naman tayo natinag at patuloy naman tayo sa pag-unlad ng kapasidad natin across the five pillars of the pandemic response,” he said.

The country is now preparing its cold storage for the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines as they should remain in extremely low temperatures.

Duque added that the government should also tighten its border control to curb the spread of COVID-19 especially in the face of a new strain currently affecting a population in the United Kingdom.

While doing so, the country must also expand its health capacity, its capability to flatten the curve of infection, and maintain balance between the economy and health of the public.

“So iyong equilibrium na iyan napakamahalaga po dahil gaya ng sinabi ko—yung goal dito is really economic recovery and normalcy of the lives of our people,” he said.

“So marami po tayong ginagawa yung five: prevention, detection, isolation, treatment, and reintegration strategy in our pandemic response,” he added.

Meanwhile, Duque stressed that healthcare workers, the poorest Filipinos, and uniformed personnel are among the priorities for vaccination.

He assured that there will be no VIP treatment among government officials when it comes to access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Babantayan natin iyan kaya maganda po ang papel na ginagampanan ng media dahil talagang kasama po namin kayo na magmamatyag. We will look into this na wala pong mga tinatawag nating VIP treatment,” Duque said.

The Health Secretary still reminds the public to observe proper health protocols even with the availability of the vaccine so as to curb the spread of COVID-19. MNP (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

DOF OKs inclusion of COVID-19 vaccine imports in express lane for tax processing

Robie de Guzman   •   February 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – All importations of COVID-19 vaccines will now be included in the “Mabuhay” or express lane of the Department of Finance to allow quick processing of the tax and duty exemptions of these shipments, the department said.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the DOF said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III approved the inclusion of vaccine imports to allow for the expedited processing of the tax and exemptions for vaccine applications.

Under Department Order 29-94, the Mabuhay Lane is tasked to expeditiously process applications for the tax and duty exemption of certain groups of importers, which include export-oriented firms, returning residents (balikbayans) and non-profit, non-stock educational institutions.

COVID-19 vaccine tax exemption applications in the Mabuhay Lane, which is under the DOF’s Revenue Office, will be processed within 24 working hours, the department said.

These tax exemption policies will be incorporated in the inter-agency guidelines on the implementation of a one-stop shop for international donations and government-procured COVID-19 vaccines, the department added.

Dominguez also approved the waiving of filing fees for COVID-19 vaccine applications under the Mabuhay Lane and the use of the Tax Exemption System Online Filing Module in processing the vaccine imports “to further support the government’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program.”

“We add that the Mabuhay Lane currently processes all Relief Consignment under Section 120 in relation to 121 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA). The Lane is expected to process all COVID-19 vaccines which may qualify as relief consignment,” Finance Undersecretary Antonette Tionko said.

Relief Consignment refers to goods donated to national government agencies and accredited private entities for free distribution to, or for the use of, victims of calamities.

Under Section 121 of the CMTA, relief consignment imported during a state of calamity and intended for the use of calamity victims shall be exempted from the payment of duties and taxes.

COVID-19 inoculation mandatory but soldiers can choose brand – AFP spox

Robie de Guzman   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The vaccination of military personnel against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will be mandatory although the soldiers can choose which brand to receive, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Thursday.

In a virtual press briefing, AFP Spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said all soldiers will be obliged to get inoculated as ordered by AFP chief of staff Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana.

The directive came even as the military has yet to ascertain where its vaccine supply will be coming from, or if they are among those who will receive the first 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by the Chinese government.

“Ang Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas po is not like any ordinary organizations. Tayo po ay nasa service-orientated organization. Tayo po ang inaasahan sa napakaraming mabibigat na tungkulin kagaya nga po ng pagharap sa pandemya as early as 2020. Kaya sinabi natin na hindi opsyon ang pag-ayaw. Subalit kinikilala natin yung kanilang kagustuhan ng brand na gusto nila” he said.

Military personnel who will be choosing other brands of the vaccine will need to pay for their own jabs, Arevalo said.

Those who refuse to get vaccinated will face sanctions under military rules, he added.

“We are an organization under military regulations. So, ang pagtupad sa mga regulasyon o sa mga tinatadhana ng existing legal orders buhat sa ating mga superiors just like this one from the AFP Chief of Staff, no less, will be dealt with disciplinary actions kung hindi nila susundin,” he said.

“But we are confident na hindi na tayo darating sa punto na iyon,” he added.

The AFP said all its employees and troops assigned in the medical and healthcare units will be the first to get inoculated against COVID-19.

The donated Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines from China are expected to arrive in the country this weekend. RRD (with details from Correspondent Joan Nano)

Office of the President eyeing Sinopharm vaccine for PRRD under compassionate use

Marje Pelayo   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the President is studying the possibility of also administering Sinopharm vaccine to President Rodrigo Duterte by way of compassionate use license.

Malacañang is referring to the 10,000 doses that the Food and Drug Administration had earlier granted compassionate special permit intended for the use of the Presidential Security Group (PSG).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque during a televised press briefing on Thursday said, the president’s legal team is studying whether there is a “legal basis” for this option.

“They are studying kung pupuwedeng gamitin iyong compassionate use para legal basis for the President to have the Sinopharm vaccines but it is still being studied by the Malacanang legal office,” he said.

Roque believes that, as the vaccine is intended for the President’s men, he is also qualified to be given the vaccine being the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Sinopharm is also the brand of choice of the chief executive, he said.

“If you ask me as a lawyer, he is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and he should be allowed to use the Sinopharm under the compassionate use license,” Roque said.

It can be recalled that several members of the PSG were inoculated with Sinopharm vaccines even without proper authorization from the FDA.

Meanwhile, the Palace maintained that the PSG has yet to receive the said 10,000 doses under the compassionate special permit.

The Sinopharm vaccine maker also has not yet applied for an emergency use authorization from the FDA. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)


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