Press Release
June 15, 2021

June 15, 2021

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, this hearing of the Committee of the Whole (COW) is hereby called to order.

Let us pause for a minute of silent prayer.

May I first acknowledge the presence of my colleagues who are physically and virtually present.

Early this year, the Committee of the Whole already conducted a series of hearings to deliberate on the COVID-19 Vaccination Program. One of its products is the enactment of a law which establishes the National COVID-19 Vaccination Program, expediting the procurement of vaccines and administration process, and the establishment of an indemnification fund, among others.

From this Committee's last hearing on the subject, a lot has already happened; thus, the Senate Committee of the Whole deems it necessary to reconvene for the following purposes:

First, to provide update to the public as to the status of our National COVID-19 Vaccination Program and its budgetary utilization status. Sa nailaan na P82.5 billion, magkano na ang nagastos ng gobyerno? Ilan na ang nabiling vaccines? Ilan na ang nabakunahan? Ang inaasahan nating herd immunity bago matapos ang taon, matutupad ba ito?

Second, to discuss the possibility of amending the present IATF quarantine guidelines to be attuned with the direction of the country to open the economy safely. Another reason to update the present quarantine protocols is to ease the burden of our OFWs and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) who are directly affected by the ever changing and lengthy travel and quarantine protocols.

We are exercising our oversight powers not to criticize the government's response in addressing the pandemic, but to help find progressive solutions to the evolving problems we are facing today.

Vaccination is being prioritized to save lives and to open our economy to recover from the damaging effects of the pandemic. In the recent IATF Resolution No. 120, that will be effective tomorrow, June 16, 2021, fully vaccinated senior citizens will be allowed to go out in areas under GCQ and MGCQ. This shows that our guidelines are adjusting based on the developments in our vaccination program.

So why are some of us being adamant about adjusting the present quarantine protocols, especially for our OFWs and ROFs? These people are going home not for leisure but to see their sick or dying family members for the last time or due to some other urgent matters that they need to attend to, after almost two years or so of not seeing their spouses, children, and aging parents. Time is a very limited commodity for our OFWs and ROFs. We hope that in today's hearing, DOH will be open and try to consider the proposals and not just outright dismiss the findings of this Committee.

Another objective of this hearing is to get an update from our resource persons as to the implementation of the unified vaccine card, which is mandated by the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021. Where are we now in the establishment of a vaccine pass? Just like the amendments to the current IATF quarantine guidelines, this unified vaccine passports will facilitate safe mobility of people who have been vaccinated and could ultimately help spur the growth of trade. Hindi lamang nito mapapadali ang pag-travel ng mga Pilipino domestically or internationally, mapapasigla rin nito ang ating ekonomiya dahil kaakibat ng paggalaw ng tao ang pag-angat ng ekonomiya.

And lastly, in addition to all our concerted efforts to achieve herd immunity, we hope to discuss also how we can strengthen the information campaign to promote vaccination, para naman mawala ang agam agam at takot ng ating mga kababayan na nagdadalawang isip magpabakuna. Private businesses are doing their part in offering discounts and incentives for those who are already vaccinated. We hope our government will be able to do the same effective campaign to encourage vaccination.

For this hearing, your Committee has invited relevant government agencies, representatives from the leagues of different local government units, medical experts, and representative from a non-governmental organization that promotes the rights of OFWs and Filipino migrants to provide answers and solutions to the foregoing concerns that this representation mentioned.

Again, our objective is to strengthen and enhance the current approach of our government in our fight against COVID-19 and to fulfill our commitment to alleviate the burden of our kababayans here and abroad.

We hope to have a productive and open discussion in today's proceedings to provide solutions to the evolving needs of our people brought about by this pandemic.

At this juncture, may I request the Senate Secretary to acknowledge the presence of all our resource persons present physically before us and those attending virtually. After which, the Secretary is hereby directed to administer the oath to the resource persons.

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