THE House of Representatives on Monday decided to increase funding for the Duterte administration’s procurement of coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) vaccines next year to a total of P8 billion.
Upon instructions from Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, the small committee in charge of institutional amendments to the proposed P4.5 trillion 2021 national budget chaired by House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, approved an increase of P5.5 billion under the Department of Health (DoH).
“This is to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s program to strengthen the country’s health care system. We believe that vaccine plays a very crucial role in keeping the population safe and healthy from the pandemic. We are working diligently to fulfill our constitutional duty of ensuring that funding for safe and effective vaccine to control COVID-19 is guaranteed and will be available to Filipinos,” said Romualdez, chairman of the powerful House committee on rules.
That brings the total fund to P8 billion, since there is already an initial allocation of P2.5 billion in the DoH budget.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, a member of the small committee, said the group had the consensus to consider only institutional amendments and departmental errata and accommodate individual amendments during the bicameral conference committee.
The soft copy of the 3rd reading version of the 2021 national budget containing the P20 billion institutional amendments made by the small committee as disclosed by Salceda will be transmitted to the Senate on October 28.
On Monday, Salceda said the P5.5 billion COVID-19 vaccines fund is part of the P20 billion institutional amendments of the House of Representatives under the 2021 national budget.
Other members of the small committee under Romualdez are Salceda, House appropriations chairman and ACT-CIS party-list Eric Yap, Rizal Rep. Jack Duavit, Bataan Rep. Jose Enrique Garcia, Batangas Rep. Eileen Ermita-Buhain, House Deputy Majority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon (BH) party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera, AAMBIS-OWA party-list Rep. Sharon Garin, senior Deputy Speaker and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon, House Deputy Majority Leader and Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Luisa Lloren Cuaresma, Samar Rep. Edgar Marie Sarmiento, Marikina City Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo, and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.
The small committee, according to Salceda, also agreed to provide the following institutional amendments: Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC), P400 million; Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), P100 million; DoH, P10.5 that will be allocated to Health Facility Enhancement Program with P2 billion, P300 million to Mental Health and P5.5 billion to COVID-19 vaccine; Department of Labor and Employment’s (DoLE) Tupad, P4 billion; Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Assistance to Families Affected by the Pandemic, P2 billion; Department of Education’s (DepEd) Support to Teachers on Connectivity, P1.7 billion; Department of Interior and Local Government-Philippine National Police’s (DILG-PNP) Mobile Vehicle for Quick Response, P2 billion; and Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Procurement of Aircraft (C-130), P2 billion.
On Monday, in television interviews, Velasco said the allocation for COVID-19 vaccine procurement was one of the appropriations the House intended to increase.
“During the four-day marathon (plenary) hearings (last week) which reached until 4:30 in the morning, we saw the things that we should have put more budgets, like the purchase of COVID-19 vaccine. I think there was only around P2.5 billion that was allotted…so that’s one of the things that we add on to,” Velasco said.
With P2.5 billion, he said only three percent of the country’s population of more than 100 million could be vaccinated.
The Speaker noted that President Duterte has made public his wish for the government to inoculate at least 20 million poor Filipinos.
“But with P2.5 billion, I think that’s just a small number. Definitely, the small committee should add more to that for the vaccine,” he said.