IATF allows entry of Balikbayans starting Dec. 7

Maris Federez   •   November 30, 2020   •   388

MANILA, Philippines — The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has approved the entry of balikbayans and their families to the country starting December 7.

In Resolution No. 85 dated November 26, the IATF has resolved to allow entry privileges to the Philippines Filipino citizens and former Filipino citizens, including their foreign spouses and children, regardless of age, who are traveling with them.  These privileges were provided for under Republic Act No. 6768 or the “Act Instituting the Balikbayan Program”.

The resolution stated that the entry of these persons shall be subject to the following conditions:

  1. They are allowed visa-free entry under Executive Order No. 408, s. 1960;
  2. With pre-booked quarantine facility;
  3. With pre-booked COVID-19 testing at a laboratory operating at the airport; and
  4. Subject to the maximum capacity of inbound passengers at the port and date of entry.

The decision of the IATF is without prejudice to immigration laws, rules, and regulations of the Bureau of Immigration (BI), the resolution said.

Among such regulations is that the Commissioner of Immigration shall have the exclusive prerogative to decide on waiver or recall of exclusion order for the above foreign nationals, including other foreign nationals who have entered the Philippines by virtue of the IATF resolutions.

The resolution also directed the BI to formulate the necessary guidelines to ensure smooth implementation, as well as the Department of Tourism to issue the necessary guidelines for the provision of sufficient accommodation for the foregoing persons taking into account the release of COVID-19 test results, the resolution further stated. — /mbmf

Senators seek third hearing on government’s COVID-19 vaccine plan

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Several Senators seek a third hearing to further discuss the national government’s COVID-19 vaccine plan.

The Senate Committee of the Whole may call for another public hearing on the government’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Senator Franklin Drilon, in a statement, said the two-day inquiry left more questions than answers.

“There are still a number of issues hanging. These too many unanswered questions raise grave concerns, for the survival of the country largely depends on our ability to implement a successful vaccination program against the COVID-19 virus,” he said.

Drilon noted that the pricing, the sourcing of the vaccines, the delivery schedules, and the logistical support plan are several of the urgent questions needed to be answered.

“We did not get any definite answers to these serious questions. I believe another round of hearing is in order. I support the call of Sen. Panfilo Lacson for more hearings,” he added. –AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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Roque reiterates Sinovac-PH agreement already ‘binding obligation’

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. on Monday (January 18) reiterated that the vaccine deal between the Philippines and Sinovac is a ‘binding obligation’.

This was contrary to the statement of the Department of Finance (DOF) that the term sheet signed by the Philippines and China regarding Sinovac vaccines is not yet a done deal.

According to the DOF, the Philippines can still back out from the deal should Sinovac fails to comply with the regulatory process of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Roque said that the second obligation in the contract is the procurement of the vaccines which is subject to one of the conditions agreed upon by the parties, and that is the approval of the FDA.

“Kontrata na po yan, kaya nga lang po, yun pangalawang obligasyon, at ito po ang pagbibili ay naka-subject po sa condition na pinag-agreehan ng mga Partido. […] But that is already a binding obligation,” Roque said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Rontgene Solante, a member of the vaccine experts panel of the government said the efficacy rate is not the only basis to prove that a vaccine is effective.

“Ang isa sa pinaka-importante na parameters sa isang bakuna, kapag nabakunahan ka, ma-prevent mo ba ang severe disease over mild. If this vaccine can prevent severe disease, then I would choose given that 50% efficacy rate niya,” he said.

Around 50,000 Sinovac vaccines are set to arrive by February. They will be given to health workers once the FDA approves its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). -AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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Roque: Listen to vaccine experts, not social media influencers

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. on Monday (January 18) advised the public to trust experts and not social media influencers regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

During a press briefing, Roque said it is wrong to compare vaccines to detergent soap which is an apparent reply to a tweet of comedian Vice Ganda.

Roque said there is less supply of vaccines compared to the supply of clothing detergents. He also reiterated that vaccine experts are more knowledgeable on which COVID-19 vaccines are better.

Nag-aagawan nga po tayo sa 18% na supply. Pangalawa, hindi lang naman po gagamitin para sa damit. Kaya nga po, hindi lang po isa, hindi lang po dalawa, kundi tatlong grupo pa ng mga eksperto ang magsusuri kung ang mga bakuna ay ligtas at epektibo (We are vying for 18% of [vaccine] supply. Secondly, it will not be used for clothing. Three groups of vaccine experts are reviewing which vaccines are safe and effective),” he said. AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz).

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