Senate seeks further inquiry on COVID vaccine rollout

Published January 17, 2021, 12:42 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos & Hannah L. Torregoza

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Sunday he supports calls for another round of Senate inquiry on the rollout of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.
Drilon said the Senate Committee of the Whole should furnish only a preliminary – not final – report on the two hearings held on the government’s vaccination plan. The Senate minority leader pointed out the two-day inquiry left more questions than it answered.

Senator Franklin Drilon
(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“There are still a number of issues hanging. These too many unanswered questions raise grave concerns, for the survival of the country largely depends on our ability to implement a successful vaccination program against COVID-19 virus,” Drilon said in a statement.

“We did not get any definite answers to these serious questions. I believe another round of hearing is in order. I support the call of Sen. Panfilo Lacson for more hearings,” the senator said.
Drilon said the most urgent unanswered questions are issues about the pricing, the sourcing of the vaccines, the delivery schedules, and logistical support plan.

“It was evident that preparations are not sufficient. We all want this vaccination plan to succeed. The Senate should continue to exercise its oversight power,” he said.
“The Senate has no agenda but to give the public access to information about the government’s vaccination plan,” he stressed.
Drilon lamented that the lack of access to information fuels doubts and confusion among the public.
A Senate hearing, he said, would be an opportunity for the public to be informed of the government’s vaccination plan and scrutinize the same.
“The success of the vaccination program – and the country’s economic recovery – depends on the ability to inoculate at least 60 percent of our population,” he said.
“How will the government convince people that the vaccines are safe? How can we strengthen our people’s confidence in the anti-coronavirus vaccine?” he added.

Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said last Saturday senators may manifest an intention to hold another hearing on the issues hounding the State’s inoculation plan when sessions resume Monday.

 Lacson said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. should answer senators’ questions about the government dealing with Sinovac president Helen Yang, who is based in Hong Kong.

Galvez, he said, kept changing his answers to the same questions posed by the senators. He also said there are too many “loose ends.”

Senate seeks further inquiry on COVID vaccine rollout

Malacañang said that the Chinese government will donate half-a-million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines as the two countries reaffirmed their ties and cooperation against the pandemic.

The Office of the President (OP) revealed this after Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a 40-minute courtesy call on President Duterte in Malacañang on Saturday.

In its statement, the OP said Wang assured President Duterte of China’s commitment to support the Philippines’ efforts to combat COVID-19, a disease that originated in the Asian giant.

“He (Wang) announced that China will donate 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines. He likewise affirmed China’s resolve to do everything to ensure that vaccines become a global good,” Malacañang said.

Duterte lauded the continued high-level engagement between the Philippines and China even amid the pandemic and stressed the importance of both sides delivering on the promises of the Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation, Malacañang said.

President Duterte likewise stressed that cooperation on public health must be strengthened, particularly access to safe and effective vaccines, to safeguard the health of the people and to hasten the economic recovery of both nations and their neighboring countries.

“The recovery of nations… sits on the back of stronger economies, Duterte told Wang.

“China plays a very key role in reviving our region’s economy. Let us do all we can to revive economic activities between the Philippines and China,” he added.

Malacañang said that President Duterte conveyed appreciation for China’s continuing support and cooperation in the country’s fight against COVID-19 in terms of medical equipment and supplies and sharing of experiences and expertise as well as in the repatriation of Filipino nationals.