Press Release
May 25, 2021

ANC Headstart Interview of Senator Win Gatchalian with Karen Davila on COVID-19 vaccination, Face-to-face classes, Malampaya sale and Bayanihan 3


Q: You tweeted the other day, actually yesterday that it may be time for a change in vaccines strategy in the sense that you said that the government should already allow the general public. So that's already A4 plus plus in NCR to be vaccinated as early as June. And you say we have enough vaccines to do it, I've asked this also myself, and yet it seems that you do have LGUs and also members of the IATF that are still bent on sticking it with A1 to A3 first, even if there's resistance.

SEN. WIN: Well, Karen, we're now in the third month of our vaccination program, and from my observation, it's about time to move the general public up in the priority program as early as June. So meaning, allowing the general public, anyone who is willing to take their vaccine to be vaccinated as early as June and reason for that is by June of this year, we will have 21 million vaccines in inventory and if you do the simple math in the NCR cluster, that's about 26 million in population. And the clincher here is the recent SWS survey where it said that only 32 percent want to be vaccinated. The vaccine acceptance rate is only 32 percent. So if you multiply the 25 million by 32 percent you get about 8 million. So 8 million is less than the 21 million inventories so we have more than enough vaccines for people who want to be vaccinated.

Q: So, Senator Gatchalian what you're saying, kumbaga basta willing, bakunahan na. Ganun sa America, basta willing bakunahan na, hindi nga tinatanong taga-saan ka, anong state ka, anong lungsod ka. Parang ganun, kung turista ka?

SEN. WIN: Karen, I have a small anecdote and one time I was talking to Senator Sonny Angara and I mentioned to him about the vaccine hesitancy of our senior citizens. Ang sabi niya baka hindi marunong mag-text or mag-register. So in Valenzuela, we went house to house. We gave a schedule to all 58,000 senior citizens and the reply that we get is 'ayaw namin magpa-vaccine, gusto namin ayuda.' and true enough 20 percent of our senior citizens went out to get their vaccine so to wait for 80 percent to go out and get their vaccine, it will take time, while the rest of the public wants to get their vaccines already and to achieve the herd immunity by the end of the year, we have to start with the willing because they are ready to go.

Q: I agree with that, start with the willing, because they're raring to go and ready to go. I want to ask you about the elderly, this is interesting, so do you believe a strategy, local government lang 'to that perhaps the local government will already detect which home have elderlies, hindi pa nabakunahan, dadalhin na lang ang bakuna doon at may kapalit na incentive that would mean ayuda, pwedeng bigas, pwedeng kahit ano. Do you believe that's a good change in strategy?

SEN. WIN: For me, Karen, what's important is to allay the fears. If you look at the SWS survey number one, there is fear that it might cause injury to themselves. The fear of the unknown is actually the biggest problem, it's not the ayuda. They didn't say 'Oh, eto muna ang kapalit before I get vaccinated'. It's really fear that is the number one reason and my simple strategy for that is for the leaders to come out and promote vaccination. The top leaders, our president, our vice president, our Senate President, even Speaker of the House, and even media personalities such as yourself to go out and promote. I think, in my humble opinion, people will follow their leaders and people trust their leaders, and if they see their leaders are being vaccinated and promoting vaccination, people will follow. At this time, the hurdle that we have to overcome is fear of vaccines.

Q: All right now, very quickly, there are suggestions for changes in strategies. So for example, Dr Tony Leachon said, since it's only Pfizer, that's allowed really for the young, and it's only limited, why not give it to students. He said we have Sinovac, a big inventory of it, why not give it to policemen and military since essentially they have to follow the chain of command and they can't say no. And then you specifically set aside Astra for seniors. What do you think of that?

SEN. WIN: Any suggestion that is needed in the rollout is not a problem but my initial thoughts are even within the A4, for example, teachers, policemen, vaccine hesitancy among themselves is also quite high. So not because we prioritize that, say the A4, we still have a high vaccine hesitancy. Only 30 percent want to be vaccinated. So, instead of waiting for all of them to be vaccinated, my opinion is to really allow the general public.

Q: Okay, if you allow the general public, do you agree with Malacañang's order not to announce what vaccine is being used at that moment in time for inoculation. The WHO just came up with a statement that they do support that because they said it's to be vaccinated that's important.

SEN. WIN: Personally, my analysis, Karen, it would not help overcome fear, it will aggravate fear among our constituents. One of the things that will help them is knowing what type of vaccine that they will be injected with and a lot of our constituents, believe it or not, they do their research. When I go around Valenzuela and talk to our senior citizens, they even know about vaccine passports, even though the efficacy rate, they do their own homework, and by depriving them of the brand in advance, might create this notion of uncertainty, and that will not help them in terms of building confidence.

Q: But then is that the solution to building confidence, I mean we do know that there's also a preference for Western brands.

SEN. WIN: That's why my simple solution, and I've seen this in other countries also is for people, for personalities, people trust, our leaders, even media personalities to come out and promote the vaccine. We've seen this in some of our researchers in Valenzuela, they want their mayor and their counselors and the vice mayor to go out and promote and it will help, this is one solution but I think this is a common sense solution.


Q: How can we do face-to-face classes soon, I mean What's interesting is that even the CHED had already wanted at least college to be face to face.

SEN. WIN: This is one thing I learned from this virus, it's quite uncertain and very difficult to predict. I remember when we had this interview, 400 LGUs were zero COVID at the time, nine months ago. But right now, there are only 78 LGUs that are zero COVID. Meaning 1,400 LGUs now have some form of COVID. So in other words it's quite uncertain and we are seeing surges around the country. So my analysis here is to let the school year, this school year, end. It will end by July. Hopefully by August, September for the new school, we will have a better situation, we'll have more people vaccinated, most important is that our teachers and this is a boost of confidence in the education sector.

Q: But should there be a re-allotment of Pfizer? I do know that Secretary Galvez, I think they ordered 40 million doses of Pfizer. That will mean 20-20 but it says here 20 million by June, is this all Pfizer Senator?

SEN. WIN: No, no, it's different. There's some Covax, there's some Sinovac, varying brands.

Q: And I wanted to ask you if you believe that some Pfizer should already be set aside for students.

SEN. WIN: I am in favor of that, looking at the trends in the US, that they really started vaccinating teenagers, and this is a good sign because, again, parents are very emotional when it comes to face-to-face classes and locating vaccines for teenagers will build that confidence up. As to when, I still believe that we allow the adults first, because the adults are susceptible, and when we vaccinate them they can go back. Then after the adults, we can now move in the teenagers.

Q: How could the government improve its vaccination rollout policy, if there was one thing you can do to improve it?

SEN. WIN: One of the things we need to hurdle is the vaccine hesitancy. At the recent SWS survey, only 32 percent want to get vaccinated. The rest are still hesitant or unsure so in other words, we need to overcome that by building trust. And like you said, the most immediate low hanging fruit is for our trusted leaders and personalities to go out and promote vaccination.

ON MALAMPAYA SALE Q: Now being the chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, you are asking the Department of Energy to justify the sale of Malampaya related companies to the Udenna group, headed by and owned by Dennis Uy, a business group known to be allied with the President. And do you see something questionable frankly with this sale?

SEN. WIN: Karen, before I answer that, let me establish the importance of Malampaya. It talks about 6 million homes in our country, it is 20 percent of our power requirements. It powers about 35 percent of Luzon power requirements. So it's a very important asset. On top of that, it generates P22 billion to our revenues, to our government coffers. So it's no ordinary asset. In short, it powers about one in every five homes here. So it's important that we keep our lights on, it's important that we have a constant supply of gas. In order to do that, we need to have very competent and financially strong operators. This is where the question comes in because in the law, it's very clear that you can do the sale, but the government needs to approve that at the end. And the reason for that is the government needs to assure the public that the next operator is competent and financially strong.

Q: When you say government, the DOE can do the sale. When you say the government must approve it, you are referring to the Office of the President?

SEN. WIN: DOE. in this particular transaction, but DOE is the alter ego of the President. So, in other words, the government, through the DOE, needs to evaluate the transaction, making sure that it's legal, it's financial and technically compliant. It needs to approve and approval. Logic for this is that DOE needs to assure the public, all of us, that the next new operator is competent and has the capability of running Malampaya and supplying electricity to our homes.

Q: My first question was, is DOE transparent with you or I know that you will hold a Senate inquiry regarding this matter on how much the sale was and the deal behind the sale.

SEN. WIN: Yes, we will definitely call on the DOE.

Q: They have not announced that clearly, right?

SEN. WIN: In the first hearing that we conducted actually their statement is they're still in the process of evaluation. And it was not very clear to us, what are the sets of criteria, or the criteria that they will use in terms of evaluating this. It has to be very clear to the public, what are the criteria. And then number two, if the new company is competent, based on those cases.

Q: But should you announce it first so other companies can actually bid for it, is my question. I mean, just to make sure the details are correct. So far, the DOE approved the sale. We're talking about the 45 percent non-operating stake of Shell and Chevron in Malampaya. That's correct?

SEN. WIN: That's the first transaction, there are two transactions. The Chevron and the Shell's transaction.

Q: Okay. There are two?

SEN WIN: Yes, there are two transactions. The first transaction, you can call it as a passive investor or the investment is passive, meaning it's not operating. The Shell portion is the operator, whoever steps in to the shell will operate the trade, will supply gas to our homes. The second transaction is very critical, because it will now require technical competence, meaning the new operator should have experience in the past.

Q: So did the DOE just choose to make a sale without actually going through certain requirements of the company to take over that sale. Like for example, let's be specific about Shell, are there requirements under the law, that the company must have experience in the past?

SEN. WIN: Yes, in the law, it is very clear PD 87, the government needs to approve it. Prior to the closure of the sale, the government needs to approve it and the list of requirements are specified in many of the circulars that were promulgated by the DOE in the past. In other words, DOE has a list of requirements, and the list of criteria and this should be fulfilled before closing or before the government approves it before the private sector closes the transaction.

Q: But then would the Udenna group be qualified based on the requirements?

SEN. WIN: This is in the hands of DOE now. The mere fact that, personally, I made the statement, I have strong doubts personally. But we will let the process go through. DOE has a set of, like I said, DOE has a set of processes, and we will allow DOE to commence with the process but justified to the public as being the consumers, to be assured that the new owner is highly qualified.

Q: Okay. And under the laws should other companies have been able to bid as well?

SEN. WIN: This is a private transaction. So, Shell can invite other bidders and from my information they have. This is the only gas asset in the Philippines, so it's a monopoly, so to speak, in terms of Shell, from my information, they invited other bidders. That's their own prerogative but the government's prerogative is to assure the public that whoever steps in is highly qualified.

Q: Or the government must prove that they chose the best bidder?

SEN. WIN: Correct.

Q: For the national interest of the country?

SEN. WIN: Correct. In short because like I said, our 6 million homes are going to be affected.

Q: Do you believe there was preferential treatment for the Udenna group?

SEN WIN: I'll reserve my comment for now. The DOE now is in the process of evaluating and I'll reserve my comments on that but they said, I issued the statement because I also have some doubts in my mind and I want to be cleared up, not only as a Senator but also a citizen of this country.


Q: Okay, we don't have enough time. Actually I wanted to ask you more about tax cuts for our work from home employees, maybe we can do that at another time, Senator because that takes a longer period, but my closing is I wanted to ask you about Bayanihan 3. What are you seeing with Bayanihan 3 just generally, I mean I know you've all agreed to actually extend session time so that you can prioritize on certain measures, and Bayanihan 3 would be one of them.

SEN. WIN: One of the things that we will be looking at is spending for the 2021 budget and Bayanihan 2 because there are some items that have not been spent yet. For example, we have a P300 million subsidy for students that hasn't been spent yet and in 2021. There's lot of unspent items. So my point here is let's spend 2021 and Bayanihan 2 first before we re-align. Bayanihan 3 in effect is realigning 2021 and the other budget but let's give the budget a chance first to be spent.

News Latest News Feed