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GOCC air assets eyed for COVID vaccine distribution

THE chairman of the House committee on social services is calling on the government to conduct immediate inventory of air assets owned or leased by civilian government agencies, and government owned- and controlled- corporations (GOCCs) in preparation for the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine in the country.

Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas, panel chairman, said supplies of the vaccine could reach far-flung areas in the country faster using planes and helicopters of civilian government agencies and GOCCs since they are smaller in size compared to C-130s used by the military, which means they can land on short runways.

“While our Air Force has its work already cut out for them, the government would need more logistical support to roll out the COVID-19 immunization program immediately. We need to have as much of our people vaccinated as fast as we can,” Vargas said.

Vargas recalled that some GOCCs, like the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC), own helicopters for their aerial surveys or transport of personnel.

Some civilian agencies or GOCCs also maintain aircraft on fractional corporate lease or “timeshares,” where they are allotted a certain time to use the aircraft for a month or a certain period. This means, Vargas said, that an aircraft on lease can still be used for transporting vaccines using the time allotted for the lessee concerned if the plane or helicopter is available for deployment.

“To ensure the efficient use of aircraft owned by GOCCs and civilian agencies, they must temporarily be placed under the military’s flight operations or control for the specific purpose of vaccine distribution,” Vargas said.