Press Release
February 18, 2021

Transcript of Senator Nancy Binay's interview on ANC's HEADSTART (hosted by Karen Davila)

Senator Nancy Binay-Angeles (SNBA): Karen, can I just make a slight correction, yung inapprove namin on Monday is not on the indemnification but it's more of sa procurement and administration of COVID19 vaccines. Part lang ang indemnification doon, but the focus of the bill is more on the procurement of the LGUs of the vaccine.

Karen Davila (Q): Let's start with that. Yung procurement of the LGUs. As of now, for the LGUs to procure, it's under a tripartite setup.

SNBA: In the bill, it will still be the same setup. Ang request kasi ng mga LGUs sa amin is nagkakaroon sila ng problema sa procurement process. Number one, di kasi pinapayagan ang advance payments under existing rules. So with this bill, may power na yung LGUs to make advance payments. Alam naman natin na isa ito sa requirements for us, for the LGUs, to secure the vaccines.

Q: Bukod po doon, what about this P500 million fund na nasa bill?

SNBA: Well we already included a portion for indemnification kasi apparently a lot of pharma companies ay naghahanap ng vaccine indemnification. But the bill that I filed, kumbaga ito moving forward e. It will not only cover COVID 19 vaccines but also immunization program of the country.

Q: This 500 million pesos, paano ito? Yung pondo na ito for those na apektado or may side effects?

SNBA: Yes. Doon sa mga magkakaroon ng adverse effects sa vaccines, may P500 million fund that can be used to treat or compensate those na nagkaroon ng adverse effects.

Q: Where will you get the money to fund this senator?

SNBA: We will get for the mean time sa existing budget natin, but there is also a proposition na baka puwedeng through Philhealth magkaroon din ng indemnification program.

Q: What is the current status even for vaccine procurement? Were we able to already source itong 70 unprogrammed funds that congress set aside?

SNBA: During the deliberation yesterday, ang sagot ng mga finance managers apparently is money is not a problem. I think ADB and World Bank is already helping us with the vaccine procurement so I think yun na ang magiging source nila for the P70 billion and we did the math, yung LGUs and the private companies, more or less ang laki na ng portion na sasagutin nila sa vaccine procurement. We also have that COVAX facility na 15 percent ang sasagutin nila doon sa pangangailangan natin.

Q: Are you satisfied with how the government handled negotiations with the WHO-COVAX facility? For example the indemnity clause, some are asking bakit ngayon lang?

SNBA: We also have the same question, Karen. Kasi, if you remember we had the committee on the whole hearing and that clause was never discussed. In fact paulit-ulit nilang sinasabi na... Ah ang una nilang sinabi kung bakit nadelay ang COVAX facility... we need to build an infrastructure. Then, finally, nagawa na yung infrastructure, tumaas nanaman yung expectation na dadating na. Sinabi dadating na Feb 15 or February this week... tapos bigla na lang meron nanaman panibagong requirement na kelangan ng indemnification provision so nadelay na naman yung delivery sa COVAX facility. So yesterday, lahat din kami nagulat because another update sa COVAX facility. Kasi, WHO promised that they will give 20% doon sa need natin. Then, apparently, kahapon 15% na lang then magbabayad pa tayo ng $80 million.

Question: So where do you think the problem lie senator?

SNBA: Unang una kasi, Karen, we only have term sheets at the moment wala pa tayong supply agreement na pinipirmahan. So, habang wala pa tayo noong supply agreement, the delivery of the vaccine will always be a question. Kaya ng apaulit-ulit kong sinasabi na at this point, ang sigurado lang is hindi sigurado kung kailan darating ang bakuna.

Q: In an interview I had with Sec. Galvez, sinabi niya na that one of the problems is that under the law, we cannot pay in advance. Is that correct?

SNBA: Isa yun sa sinasabi nila, pero kami naman sa Kongreso, we have proven ourselves na kapag may hiniling ang Executive department we deliver. You can see that when we passed the Bayanihan 1 and 2. Yung FIST. Anything that will help us recover from the pandemic, mabilis pa sa alas-singko kami magtratrabaho.

Q: So, dapat hiningi ng Executive na yung downpayments should be allowed early on?

SNBA: Yes, in fact maybe when we were discussing the budget last year, they could have already told us na may ganoong requirement and we could've done a special provision for that.

Q: Ang dating ba sa inyo ay naghahabol tayo?

SNBA: I think Karen, from day one, when we had this problem lagi tayong reactionary. At this point, hindi tayo makahabol sa pag-solve dito sa problema natin sa COVID 19.

Q: Itong 15% na lang ang delivery ng WHO instead of 20%, gaano kalaki ang apektado dito?

SNBA: I am not sure but I think that's 20 million shots. Or 20 million of the population yung iba-vaccinate nila na at 20%.

Q: Did WHO say na 15% na lang ang ide-deliver nila or ihahabol nila yung 5%?

SNBA: The statement from Sec. Galvez yesterday was 15% na lang, and we have to pay $84 million for I think the remaining 5 percent. So, hindi na sya 100% free.

Q: So we are paying $84 million for the remaining 5% if we want the 20% vaccinated?

SNBA: Yun ang pagkakaintindi ko. Maybe when we continue our deliberations on Monday, we can discuss this further on the floor.

Q: In terms of the vaccine rollout senator, what is your biggest concern?

SNBA: Number one yung vaccine. Nakakailang araw na tayo na practice pero wala pa rin yung bakuna and they can't give us a definite date when it is coming. Well, naririnig namin yung Sinovac there is 600,000 coming, pero ang problema with that vaccine is that wala pa syang EUA coming ffom FDA. And para sa akin, hindi rin naman tama na madaliin natin ang FDA sa trabaho nila just because padating na itong Sinovac vaccine.

Q: Just recently also, the WHO recommended Astra Zeneca as good for all ages, yet Joey Concepcion said recently that Astra Zeneca can no longer make additional vaccines. Where does that leave the Philippines?

SNBA: I think that it is clear that we will be having Sinovac at Novovax. But I think yung Novovax hindi pa ata sya nag-aapply for EUA, at hindi pa tapos ang clinical trials niya. So, at the moment, yun ang lumalabas na mga brands na siguradong darating.

Q: So, Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, Moderna, you believe will only arrive in small batches either from WHO or Moderna from the private sector.

SNBA: Astra Zeneca thru the private sector because the government did not procure Astra Zeneca. At the moment they are only in talks with Sinovac and Novovax. Moderna ata they are not talking to them dahil medyo mahal ata ang Moderna.

Q: So what else can be done at this point?

SNBA: Maybe we should ask Vietnam how they are doing it. From what I've read, hindi sila umaasa sa vaccination program to start the economy. Di ba yung figures nila nagkaroon sila ng growth last year. It's really about addressing the basic protocols in curbing the virus. Baka may pagkukulang doon.

Q: You said Day-1 pa lang reactionary tayo makahabol. We should ask Vietnam how they're doing it. We've seen a 9.5 percent in the economy, Sen. Nancy. The IATF, I mean no less than NEDA Sec. Karl Chua is already suggesting ways to reopen the economy. Let's start with something basic, okay. The opening of movie theaters. I know napakaliit nito in the bigger picture. But let's start with something like that then move on to something bigger.

SNBA: 'Yon na nga, eh. Nakakatawa, and then, parang Karen, nagiging problema din there's no communication. The mayors have been complaining, the LGUs have been complaining, they're not being consulted by the IATF when it comes to implementing certain guidelines, at pasok na nga dito iyong pagbubukas ng movie-houses. And para sa akin din, Karen, kahit siguro buksan nila iyan, mukhang wala namang, I don't think people will go and watch movies. Ang call nga ngayon is to open up the transport sector because at the moment, ang mga jeepney drivers natin majority of them hindi pa nakakapasok. So, how do we expect the labor force to go to work if wala silang transportation?

Question: So you are calling for the opening of the transport sector already?

SNBA: Yes. Kasi ang naririnig ko ang suggestion lang nila is to allow bigger capacity for our transport, for different types of transportation. Ang call ko, is to allow more public transportation sa ating mga kalsada ngayon kasi nga iyong mga jeepney drivers natin, hanggang ngayon majority of them hindi kumikita.

Q: Other than the transport sector, Metro Manila is still on GCQ. How do you believe does this affect the economy as a whole?

SNBA: Well, syempre alam naman natin ang center of commerce in our country is basically in NCR. So, for as long as the numbers are still going up, I think ang pagiging kampante that they would be safe when they go out mukhang wala pa.

Q: Now in terms of face-to-face classes opening, this has been, well the president is now open to choose certain areas with face-to-face classes. This is quite interesting because I've been hearing different points of view about it. Where do you stand with face-to-face classes?

SNBA: Ako, Karen, I agree that we can already have face-to-face classes. But kailangan doon lang siya sa mga LGU na kung puwede halos close to zero ang cases of Covid. And then it will not be the same classroom setup. Sabi ko nga baka pwede gawin siya sa covered court, kung saan baka 10 lang or 15 students lang will attend classes maybe for once a week. Basta mga ganoong variations when it comes to implementation. I am not agreeing to a face-to-face setup during the old normal, eh. We need to find a new way of doing face-to-face classes because I believe ang mga students natin are really suffering. In fact, 'di ba ang laki na ng problema natin sa education, the numbers are not favorable. And then we had this "no classes" so I'm sure when we do again ang mga tests sa malamang mas bumaba pa ang quality of our education system.

Q: I'm curious, Sen., clearly it's not a one-size-fits-all. Should private schools start first? Private schools have a smaller class size compared to our public schools. Should private schools take the lead? We have some schools with 15 in a class, 20 in a class?

SNBA: I don't know doon sa private schools, kasi Karen iyong mga private schools naka-shift sila sa online classes, eh. Like ako, iyong mga anak ko, which how I wish everybody would also have the same setup, they go to class every day, they see their classmates every day, they see their teacher. So ang kulang na lang is ang physical presence, physical contact, but you know the setup is the same, they do PE class together while doing Zoom sessions. So, nandoon pa rin. But in our public schools, walang ganoong capability.

Q: So, in public schools naniniwala kayo na there has to be already some semblance of kids seeing each other at least in a different kind of setup, may variation. It's also I guess for mental health.

SNBA: Yes, and then, iba pa rin if the teacher is there teaching the students, 'di ba? Kasi at the moment they have these learning modules tapos kani-kaniyang ano sila. Kaya nga ang dami ding I think the pressure doon sa mga parents to relearn concepts ay mahirap din, so iba talaga kapag nandiyan iyong guro sa harap ng mga estudyante.

Q: So, there's face-to-face classes, the question of are movie-houses really the issue, what other way would you want to see the economy reopen?

SNBA: Ako kasi siguro, Karen, for as long as there's already trust and confidence doon sa response natin sa pandemic, it will follow, eh. It will follow that more people will patronize, more people will start going out. Kasi ngayon hindi naman porke't pinapayagan na ng IATF magbukas ang certain segments of our economy, they patronize. Kasi nga 'di ba the fear is still there. Kung alam natin na everything is in place, iyong response we have enough hospital beds in case magkaroon ng surge, I guess the economy will really start opening up.

Q: Do we need another stimulus package? Compared to other Asian countries, it's been said the Philippines has had a very small stimulus package in restarting the economy, and pending in the House Committee of Economic Affairs is Bayanihan 3. So in the Lower House, they've set aside P420 billion. Malacañang has said at one point, I think it was Sec. Harry Roque who said, some said that you don't need a Bayanihan 3 but I could be corrected on this. Do you believe we need Bayanihan 3?

SNBA: Well, siguro. But kami kasi Karen, alam mo iyong Bayanihan 1 and 2, ang naging problema niyan, implementation. It was very slow. In fact, iyong Bayanihan 2 --we had a hearing the other day sa Committee on Agriculture-- may fund na it was just released last month. So hindi quick, hindi ganoon kabilis ang paggamit ng pondo, and isang ahensiya lang iyan ha. I think sa ibang agency medyo slow din ang pag-release nila ng pondo.

Q: So it's not the money, it's the implementation on how to release the funds?

SNBA: Yes, parang at the moment, we are still underspending, Karen. Remember iyong 2020 budget, we can still use it for 2021. And then there's the 2021 budget, and then mayroong Bayanihan 2 pa. So I think in terms of funding it's there, it's just the utilization mukhang nagkakaroon ng problema.

Q: So why are we still underspending? Where is the problem?

SNBA: That is the biggest question. Baklt hindi, in fact paulit-ulit sa mga hearings namin, we've always asked the Executive na "bilisan n'yo ang pag-release ng pondo."

Q: If Bayanihan 3 gets to the Senate, what area do you believe needs support, or more funding?

SNBA: Number 1, syempre, I think ang hardest-hit ngayon is the tourism sector, eh. So isa 'yan sa nakikita ko na kailangan nating tulungan.

Q: Anything you'd like to add? I think the big one is really, well, in terms of the indemnity clause, Sen. Nancy, well the Philippine government's already signed it so technically the government can't sue Pfizer and AstraZeneca when they come in and there are side effects. Just holistically speaking, what do you want to see that the IATF, the vaccine team do to fast-track everything? I mean clearly they are doing their best but what do you want to see them do?

SNBA: Well, ako, I want to see that supply agreement signed already. Because if we have that document, it will really guarantee that the vaccines are already coming. So for me, the need to have that signed is very urgent.

Q: On that note, Sen. Nancy Binay, thank you so much for your time this morning. I really appreciate it, thank you. You stay strong, and God bless you.

SNBA: Thank you, and stay safe, everybody.

Q: On another note, Sen. Nancy, magpapabakuna ba kayo?

SNBA: Yes, magpapabakuna ako. But I don't think I am in the priority list, alam naman natin there's a shortage of the vaccine, so I'd rather give it to the health-workers. I am willing to sacrifice, be locked up in my house, basta maibigay sa mga kababayan natin na talagang mas nangangailangan ng bakuna.

Q: So kumbaga you're willing to wait it out. Are you particular with the type of vaccine that you will get?

SNBA: Well, Karen, I have this fear of injections, so at the moment I'd rather get the Johnson&Johnson kasi nga single dose lang siya.

Q: I see. So you have a fear of injections, you're going to wait for the single dose vaccine.

SNBA: Yes. Actually I'm always asked if I'm willing to do it in public. Yeah I'm willing to do it in public, kaso lang baka iyong makakakita sa akin baka mas matakot because I really have the fear.

Q: I didn't know you had that fear. But now we know. So it's actually not the brand, you just want it in single dose?

SNBA: Yes.

Q: That's just what you're particular about. Single dose, that's it. Okay. Well, Sen. Nancy, thank you for sharing that.

SNBA: Talagang sobrang takot na takot ako.

Q: Thank you so much, Sen. Nancy Binay.

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