Senate eyes cap on vaccine procurement to ensure equal access to poor and rich LGUs

Published February 22, 2021, 7:14 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

The Senate is keen on putting a limit on the volume of vaccines that can be purchased by local government units (LGUs) to promote fairness in the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Monday.

Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Under the Senate Bill No. 2057, or the bill that seeks to expedite the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and establish a P500-million indemnity fund, the Upper Chamber imposes a 50 percent cap on the targeted population. The House’s version of the bill imposed none.

Drilon, however, said putting a cap on the LGU-led procurement is necessary and should not be left open.

“This is suggested as an equalization provision so that the richer provinces cannot just buy everything that they can afford,” Drilon explained in an interview over ANC Headstart.

The Senate, he said, imposed a 50 percent cap on the targeted population, because the targeted population is only 70 percent of the total population in a city or province.

He said the restriction in the law is that the LGUs can only procure the equivalent 35 percent of the total population or 70 percent of the targeted population.

“In any case, 50 percent of the targeted population is about 35 percent of the total population. That’s a limitation imposed on the LGU-purchased vaccine, because of the fear of the limited supplies of the vaccines,” he pointed out.

“Those who can afford can just purchase without regard to the need of other LGUs,” Drilon stressed.

Drilon also clarified that the bill, once signed into law, will ensure indemnification against liabilities, but not immunity from suit.

“There is no immunity from suit, but it is an indemnification against liabilities. The agreements can provide for what we call a free and harmless clause, meaning, the manufacturers, by express consent of the state and by provision of indemnification agreement, can provide a free and harmless cause to the manufacturers,” he said.

“In fact, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, based on news reports, have submitted indemnification forms to the Philippine government and once this is signed, there’s a free and harmless clause.

The manufacturers are free from liability, not suits,” he pointed out.