Press Release
November 10, 2021

Is PH winning COVID-19 battle? Drilon says it's too early to tell, wants budget for booster shots placed in programmed fund

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon on Wednesday said it is too early to say that the Philippines is winning the battle against COVID-19, citing the pandemic's devastating effects on the economy, lost jobs that need to be recovered, businesses needing government intervention, and, most importantly, the need for booster shots for next year.

"I think it is difficult to dispute that our country's recovery is still in limbo. Whatever we have accomplished thus far can be reversed when COVID-19 cases rise again or a more contagious virus enters the country," Drilon cautioned during Senate plenary deliberations on the proposed P5.024 trillion national budget next year.

The President had earlier claimed that the country is winning the battle against COVID-19.

"We are happy to hear the President saying that we are winning the battle against COVID-19," the senator said. "However, I think it's too early to tell especially with the recent survey done by Bloomberg that our country is the least resilient among those surveyed and therefore, the worst place to be in during the pandemic. We face a long road to recovery," Drilon added.

This is why, Drilon emphasized, the 2022 national budget should prioritize the purchase of vaccines and the needs of the health sector.

Drilon insisted that the funding for the procurement of booster shots should be part of the programmed budget in 2022, fearing that the absence of a clear source of funds may derail the procurement of the much-needed booster shots.

He reiterated the warnings made by medical experts that the effectiveness of the vaccines wanes.

"The efficacy of the vaccines may generally last for six months. Therefore, the need for a booster is a certainty. Talagang sigurado na ang pangangailangan sa booster shots when the efficacy expires," Drilon said.

However, the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) allocates P45 billion for purchase of COVID-19 booster shots placed in the unprogrammed fund and another P16.2 billion in the programmed fund supposedly to inoculate 113 million Filipinos next year, Drilon noted.

The projects under unprogrammed funds will not be implemented until there is an approved loan or once the government exceeds its non-tax revenues targets.

The senator noted that the P45.7 billion for the vaccines, placed in the unprogrammed fund, is equivalent to only 1.22% of the target revenue collections next year and, therefore, the government is capable of funding it through taxes or revenues.

If booster shots are not administered timely and properly, it could put the population at risk again, he stressed.

"We will go back to this cycle of lockdown of our economy and go back again to the difficulties that we have experienced," he added, citing the situation in Europe today as Covid-19 cases are once again surging.

That is why, Drilon said, the 2022 national budget is the key to the country's recovery.

"The 2022 national budget should provide the much-needed impetus for economic recovery not because of the election," Drilon said.

"Ito po ay budget ng taumbayan, budget ng ating bansa, hindi budget ng mga kandidato," he added.

"Walang sektor ang dapat maiwan. Unfortunately, there may be some sectors sidelined in the budget. Halimbawa, wala pa rin pong ayuda. Kulang ang budget sa housing. Kulang ang tulong sa naghihingalong tourism sector," he lamented.

Drilon further said: "Kailangan po nating makalaya sa COVID-19. But this cannot happen unless we put the priority correctly in this coming budget."

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