Zubiri proposes P5 B for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccine

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Wednesday proposed a P5-billion budget for the procurement of the vaccines against COVID-19 under the proposed Bayanihan 2 law.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri (Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Zubiri said he supports the allocation of more funds for the government's forthcoming vaccination program to put an end to the coronavirus epidemic.

He said lawmakers from both houses of Congress are set to discuss tomorrow, August 13, in pre-bicameral conference committee meeting the provisions of the proposed "Bayanihan to Recover as One Act".

"I think part of the funds will be utilized for Bayanihan 2 will be set aside —this was of course unofficially mentioned within our chat groups— for purchases of vaccines, para hindi na po tayo kailangan maghintay pa ng (so we will no longer have to wait for the) budget for 2021," Zubiri bared.

"Dahil napakarami nang (because there are a lot of) vaccines that are starting to come out in the market...Ang ayaw natin mangyari mahuli tayo sa pagbili ng vaccines (We don't want to be late in purchasing vaccines)," he added.

The Senate's version of the bill provides a P140-billion standby fund to support programs responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts. The House of Representatives, on the other hand, proposed a P162-billion allocation.

The Department of Finance (DOF) earlier said it could only commit some P140 billion due to the government's depleting funds for this year.

"We are looking into the budget kasi napaka-meager ng amount, 'di ba, P140 billion, napakaraming industriyang humihingi ng tulong. Pero siyempre bibigyan natin ng halaga ang pagbili ng bakuna kung gusto nating bumalik sa normal (But of course we will have to prioritize the procurement of vaccines if we wanted to return to normal)," he said.

"By doing that, we will have to get the budget of the other industries that need help," he continued.

Zubiri said he will also appeal to the DOF and the DOH for the increase of the budget for vaccines so that industries that are badly affected by the pandemic could also slowly recover.

"I'm sure papayag naman po si Secretary Dominguez kung magdagdag tayo ng P3 billion. Gawin nating P5 billion for vaccines, initially," he said.

The Department of Health (DOH) had initially set aside P2.4 billion for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines under its proposed 2021 budget.