The House of Representatives adopted on Tuesday night, February 23, the Senate version of the COVID 19 Vaccination Program Act 2021, thus, it dispensed with the conduct of a bicameral conference committee passage of the vital measure that will speed up the procurement of vaccine for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
With the bill containing similar provisions approved by both Houses, it is now expected to be enrolled for President Duterte’s signature.
Congressmen waited at the plenary hall for nearly two hours before a motion to adopt Senate Bill 2057as amendment of House Bill 8648 was presented and unanimously approved on the floor.
The Committee on Appropriations, principal sponsor of HB 8648, endorsed the motion after concurring with the provisions of SB 2057.
Last Monday, February 22, the Lower House approved HB 8648 on third and final reading with 225 affirmative and zero negative votes. Six Makabayan bloc members abstained from the voting.
With the Lower House adopting SB 2057, the proposed law that would lift stringent processes in the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be signed by President Duterte as soon as the bill is enrolled.
Duterte certified the bill as an urgent administration measure that will fast-track the implementation of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.
The legislative proposal seeks to exempt procurement of COVID-19 vaccines from the tedious and long process of public bidding as provided under Republic Act 9148 or the Government Procurement Law.
The bill also provides an indemnity fund to compensate individuals who will suffer from side effects of COVID-19 vaccine inoculation. This also unburdens manufacturers from being held liable for such events.
Senators voted Tuesday afternoon to pass SB 2057 on third and final reading.
Like the House version, SB 2057 authorizes the national government, as well as local government units (LGUs) and the private sector will be authorized to procure the vaccines through the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) and the Department of Health (DOH).
LGUs would also be authorized to directly procure the ancillary supplies and services necessary for the storage, transport and deployment of the vaccines.
The Senate bill proposes to establish a P500-million National Vaccine Indemnity Fund to compensate inoculated individuals in case of death or for treatment of possible serious side effects.
The P500-million fund would be sourced from the Contingent Fund of the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA) and would be funneled to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) as the administrator of the indemnity fund.