Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday questioned Malacanang’s announcement that COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by Pfizer would only be made available in the National Capital Region (NCR) and mega cities and not in the provinces.
Hontiveros said it is unfair for the government to give up on the distribution of Pfizer vaccines in the provinces supposedly due to the lack of ultracold storage facilities when it should be exhausting all efforts to fully support local government units (LGUs) in the provinces in the fight against the pandemic.
“Paano ang mga probinsiya na nahihirapan? Taxpayers din ang mga taga-probinsiya. Dapat all-in tayo sa pagsusuporta sa kanila (What about the provinces who are having a hard time? They are also taxpayers. We should give them also our all-in support),” Hontiveros said in a statement.
“Yang ganyang rason ay kung hindi trabahong tamad ay (That kind of reasoning is, if not the work of a lazy person is simply) gross incompetence. Bakit ipapasa sa publiko ang burden ng kawalan ng pasilidad para sa bakuna? Bakit hindi naisama sa pagpaplano lalo’t alam naman ng gobyerno na kailangan nitong mag-diversify ng vaccines dahil sa (Why will they pass the burden to the public? Why didn’t they include those concerns in their planning when the government knows it has to diversify the vaccines due to the) limited global supply?” she pointed out.
Hontiveros said she will bring up the issue when the Senate Committee of the Whole continues its hearing on the government’s vaccination plan on Friday, Jan. 15.
She said it is still unclear how the government, specifically the Department of Health (DOH) and the national task force on COVID-19, intends to roll out the vaccines to geographically-isolated areas (GIDAS).
“Give up na ba agad (Are they giving up just like that?) It is worrisome that we are not even trying to consider or find solutions. I am especially worried because of the bad track record of the DOH in delivering vaccines to regions and far-flung areas from the NCR,” she lamented.
“This really brings into question just how committed we are to delivering the different options to all Filipinos,” she pointed out.
The opposition lawmaker also lamented why the government seems to be pushing a “forfeit on first refusal” policy on the vaccines, leaving indigents in provinces no chance to choose which vaccine they prefer to be inoculated with.
Hontiveros argued that while most cases of COVID-19 cases are in mega cities like Metro Manila and Davao, provinces are also experiencing a surge in cases and are struggling from the pandemic as well.
Bacolod City, she cited, became a COVID-19 hotspot after the government implemented the “Balik-Probinsya” program.
“Pinabalik ng gobyerno ang karamihan sa mga probinsya nila noong simula ng pandemya. Wag naman natin sila iwanan sa laylayan ng vaccination plan (the government allowed many people to return to the provinces during the start of the pandemic. Let’s consider them in the vaccination plan),” she said.
“Let’s make sure they don’t get the short end of the stick,” Hontiveros stressed.