Press Release
August 23, 2021

Manifestation of Senator Pia S. Cayetano on PH's COVID-19 response
Senate session, August 23, 2021

Basically, I am also agreeing with my colleagues who spoke before me, Sen. Gordon, Sen. Angara, and Sen. Drilon. I would just like to add a few details in the discussion.

Number one, perhaps our Chair of the Committee on Finance can confirm this, but my recollection during the budget debates almost a year ago, 10 months ago, was that number one, DOH and the Department of Finance would have wanted to focus on the funding of the vaccines through loans. That was really the position they took. But I recall the position of his honor, our Chairperson, insisted that we include it in the budget because the loans are another lengthy process. So I'd like to commend our Chair for that initiative. Because as it turned out, and the Chair can just nod, or if he wants to explain further, months later, we learned that there indeed were obstacles and nuances to availing of those loans. And so later on, Sec. Dominguez updated all of us that these were proving to be a bit tedious, and we really had to finance our own.

And in the early days, I also recall that when we were receiving news that our neighboring countries, and of course, more wealthy countries who can buy their vaccine allocations by the millions, tayo wala pa, we also encountered procurement issues, if I am not mistaken, right? That our procurement laws did not allow us to make advance payments, which would have been around this time last year was the requirement of the companies that were selling the vaccines. So I think that's one reason that nagkanda-delay-delay tayo and we didn't get as much as we had wanted.

So I think it's very timely that we get updates from the IATF kung ano na yung terms ngayon na purchase, kung meron pa bang nae-extend sa atin na loans, ano ba itong mga loans, are they easy for us to avail of? Because the reason why DOF was saying at first that we want to fund this by loans because very reasonable naman ang terms. So ang limited cash natin, we can use it for other programs that we need. And then we can loan with reasonable terms itong vaccine procurement. Pero yun nga, mukhang maraming obstacles. So I am just pointing that out, that these are issues I think that require an update from IATF, and maybe later, the Chair of our Committee wants to add to this. That's my first point.

My second point is on testing, I totally agree with Sen. Gordon on the importance of testing. But I would like to bring up now, I am in the midst of preparing a resolution to be updated on what are our local innovations on testing. Because every now and then, I randomly read in the newspaper that there are local inventors or even a balik scientist who is going to "save" the Philippines with his testing kit. Eh alam ko marami na yan sila, so sana man lang may fast lane para dito sa mga local innovations, so that we can work with our local inventors also. Kasi I haven't really seen any breakthrough... Sana we could have our hearings na focused because there are so many topics under the sun, we don't get to dive in deep. But on this innovation side, I'd really like to hear from DOST, FDA, na asan na ba itong mga innovators natin? Because I hear of them. And what would it take to really support them so that between now and the future, we become more self-sufficient when it comes to not just testing, but even our vaccine production centers. We know of reports in Israel, Russia, and US companies offering to put up their plants here. I think we all would want updates on those as well. So that's my second point on innovation.

My third point is on the latest shift to MECQ. I am sure like me, many of you have followed the news and comments on social media of our netizens. By all standards, it looks like we are still in ECQ. The numbers prove that we are in a situation that calls for ECQ. And yet, we are in MECQ for whatever reason. Ang conclusion ng netizens, para walang ayuda. So, this is something that we need to address kasi nga if restrictions on people earning a living are still there, and yet walang ayuda because it's officially MECQ, then it's something we need to talk about and find solutions to.

And then my last point is on how we report and understand the figures. Today, 18,000 yung cases. And everybody is shocked by it. Of course, I am also shocked. But wouldn't it be as important to also report that if, let's say if of the 18,000, 50 percent are vaccinated, so therefore 9,000 lang ang medyo exposed, and in fact, the records would show that ang hospitalization rate is the same or equal to when our numbers were half that amount, then it's still progress in a sense. Because truly, we need to keep in mind that when we decided to go in the course of vaccination, there was never an assurance that people would not test positive despite being vaccinated. The assurance was people would not have severe cases and there would be less hospitalization. So I think it's so important that we look at these numbers as well and we get DOH to also report these numbers as significantly. Otherwise, we're all panicking because we see those numbers and yet, we do not know aside from general reports that our health system is really being pushed to the brink, but we still should see what the effect of all this vaccination is for some kind of peace of mind and also an incentive for others to get vaccinated.

I'll leave my interventions on those four points for now, Mr. President. Thank you.

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