Press Release
February 16, 2021

Co-Sponsorship Speech: SBN 2057 - Expediting The Procurement and Administration of COVID-19 Vaccines

Mr. President, as the entire country awaits the arrival of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines, I stand here to co-sponsor Senate Bill No. 2057, under Committee Report No. 185, expediting the procurement and administration of vaccines for the protection against COVID-19 by exempting local government units from compliance with the procurement requirements under RA 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act and other provisions of laws.

We all know that we are in a race against the clock. We need mass inoculation and herd immunity as soon possible, so we can defeat this virus, safeguard the health of our people, and finally work toward economic recovery from this pandemic.

As such, our LGUs have been eagerly requesting this bill, to help them procure vaccines for their constituents as quickly and as painlessly as possible. About seventy (70) LGUs are already in negotiations with vaccine suppliers through the tripartite mechanism, and they will of course need to deposit advance payments to secure their vaccines. Otherwise, they will lose the allocation.

They are also requesting that they be exempted from the procurement requirement of purchasing only the lowest bid. Mahirap po ito sa COVID-19 vaccine dahil supply-driven po ito, at hindi naman po palaging available agad ang lowest price. Again, this is an urgent need. We cannot afford to wait for a re-supply of the cheapest vaccine, when people are still dying from this virus every single day.

This bill will also exempt LGUs from Section 338 of the Local Government Code and Sec. 88 of the Government Auditing Code, which prohibits advance payments. We will allow LGUs to make advance payments under this bill, for the duration of the state of national calamity, or the pandemic. This is important so that our LGUs can close or finalize the supply agreement through the tripartite mechanism and secure their allocation of the vaccines and so we can speed up the rollout of the national vaccination program.

Ngayon, sa mga natatakot po na baka hindi pantay-pantay ang kakayanan ng ating mga LGU na bumili ng vaccine, o baka magkaroon ng sariling priority list at inoculation program ang ating mga LGU, huwag po kayong mag-alala, dahil locked in pa rin po ang ating mga LGU sa tripartite agreement facilitated by the national government.

Mr. President, susunod pa rin po ang LGUs sa national guidelines on the COVID-19 vaccine prioritization framework and criteria drafted by the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) which was adopted by the IATF, especially on the prioritization of frontline workers in health facilities, senior citizens aged 60 yeals old and above, and indigent persons. So it should not be the rich vs. poor or the powerful vs. the powerless scenario. It should never be that way, Mr. President.

Ang mabibili pong vaccines ng mga LGU under this bill ay for augmentation lamang sa supply ng national government. At iyon pong mga LGU na walang pambili ng vaccines ay sasaluhin pa rin naman ng national government.

Kung tutuusin nga po, Mr. President, lalaki pa ang pondo ng national government para pambili ng vaccines sa mga lower income areas. Kasi iyon pong dapat nakalaan na budget for higher income areas, we will now be able to redirect some of that money to rural areas or low-income LGUs.

Vaccination has to be a national effort, we all understand that. But in an archipelagic country, LGUs are naturally going to play a big part in that national effort. This bill will empower our LGUs to help the national government vaccinate as many people as possible, as soon as possible. To me Mr. President, this is the true spirit of Bayanihan, this is Bayanihan at work.

With that, Mr. President, I am urging our colleagues to join us in seeing to the urgent passage of this measure.

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