Stressing the need for a swift and efficient whole-of-nation approach in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, opposition Sen. Francis “Kiko” N. Pangilinan said Wednesday that the key solution to a more efficient vaccine roll-out is to involve the local government units (LGUs) and the private sector to enable the Philippines reach inoculation targets.
“Bakit ayaw nilang bigyan ng authority ang private sector at LGU (local government unit) na bumili ng vaccine at magkaroon ng mas efficient at mas masigasig na vaccine roll-out? I think that is a key solution. If we will just let the Department of Health (DoH) bureaucracy be the primary and sole vaccine roll-out bureaucracy, I doubt that we will be able to reach our targets,” Pangilinan said. (Why does the government refuse to give the private sector and the LGUs authority to buy vaccines for an efficient and efficient vaccine roll-out?)
In a media interview, Pangilinan, who is the main proponent to convene the Senate Committee of the Whole (COW) to probe the country’s vaccine roll-out program, stressed that the bureaucracy needs a sense of urgency to be able to effectively deliver.
“Kung aasa lang si (if we rely) on Galvez on DoH bureaucracy, he might as well be a general without an army…I have no doubt Gen. Galvez has what it takes to make this work, but he needs the DoH (to have his) sense of urgency. The lack of sense of urgency is clearly displayed in the last 11 months,” Pangilinan said, referring to Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., who is pandemic national action plan chief implementer and the so-called vaccine czar.
“How do you get the bureaucracy to have a sense of urgency? You get the LGUs involved, you get the private sector involved. Let the LGUs and the private sector be the gas pedal to the roll-out,” he added.
Pangilinan, who was Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agriculture Modernization during the Aquino administration, said that at the time he was able to tap the bureaucracy under his command – the National Food Authority (NFA) and the Philippine Coconut Authority – when he needed to address the issues of fake plastic rice and “cocolisap” or coconut infestation.
He said that absent this bureaucracy in Galvez’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), stakeholders with organizations on the ground should be tapped.
“You have to infuse the bureaucracy with the new blood, different and fresh pillars. That would be the LGUs who have shown their response to be very relevant in many of these different localities, as well as the private sector,” Pangilinan said.
Asked about how the Senate would be able to help allow the LGUs to directly purchase the vaccines, the senator said that it could be done by ensuring proper safeguards.
“Provided that there are enough safeguards in terms of coordination, reporting. For example, the government could focus on the 24.6 million most vulnerable, then the remaining 50 million puwedeng private sector and the LGUs. It’s a matter of being able to orchestrate things properly. And that requires matinding timon (efficient helmsman),” Pangilinan said.
He said the DOH could enable these stakeholders by deputizing the LGUs and the private sector.
“In the end, it’s really the DoH’s call. Kasi sabi nga nila they can deputize. Ibig sabihin, it’s now up to the DoH to let go of some of its powers and enable the stakeholders. Enable the local governments. Enable the private sector. And get more involved in the roll-out,” Pangilinan said.
“This is a mass vaccination. DoH and the government cannot do it alone. Again, you have to have LGUs involved. You have to have private sectors involved,” he added.