Press Release
February 16, 2021


Mr. President, I cannot overemphasize the importance of having these COVID-19 vaccines immediately available and accessible to our countrymen. Hindi tayo nagkulang sa paalala. Mayo pa lang nang nakaraang taon, sa bulwagang ito, nanawagan na ang bulwagang ito na ilatag na ang groundwork sa pagbili ng vaccine.

We are 110 million "willing to be shot" ASAP. This bill expediting procurement for both the national and local government, even the private sector, could not come at a more proper time.

I also wish to thank the sponsor, Sen. Sonny Angara, for incorporating my bill on the issuance of a vaccine passport in this committee report.

Ang vaccine passport na ibibigay ng libre sa lahat ng mababakunahan ay mainam na paraan upang tuluyang mabuksan muli ang ating ekonomiya lalo na para sa ating mga lokal na manggagawa at OFW na nais nang magbalik trabaho.

Like other forward-looking countries, we also expect that the vaccine passport will facilitate both domestic and international travel, ease checkpoint and quarantine exemptions, and access to establishments that previously could not reopen its doors fully to everyone.

Hindi na ito bago sa parteng ito ng mundo. People traveling to certain countries have had to show a yellow card, known as an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, to prove that they have been vaccinated against yellow fever, rubella and cholera.

The only difference now is the digital component which must address privacy and accessibility concerns. There are several initiatives on this front like the:

a. Digital Travel Pass of the International Air Transport Association (or IATA) adopted by major airlines like Etihad Airways and Emirates;

b. Digital Health Pass of the IBM that would enable individuals to present proof of vaccination to gain access to a public location such as a stadium, university, or workplace;

c. World Economic Forum and Commons Project Foundation's Common Pass which would allow travelers to access testing or vaccination information through QR codes; and the

d. Linux Foundation and COVID-19 Credentials Initiative, a collective of more than 300 people from five continents to help develop universal standards for vaccine credential apps that make them accessible and equitable.

In order to address concerns on the accessibility of a purely digital vaccine passport, the present measure requires that an individual's COVID-19 vaccination records remain accessible through other means such as printed passports.

As to possible fraud concerning records like these, we have provided offenses and penalties which are very much similar to counterfeited passports.

Mr. President, we know that a national vaccination program is a daunting task to any country, more so for countries like ours with very finite resources. The challenge here is to expedite every step of the vaccination program—from procurement to actual vaccination to proof of vaccination via passports. To this end, I give my support to this committee report for rising to the challenge with such urgency as this Chamber has shown for all the other pandemic measures at our disposal.

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