Galvez backs Razon, laments delay in construction of COVID-19 vaccination center at Nayong Pilipino

Published May 10, 2021, 12:33 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. has expressed dissatisfaction over the delay in the construction of a mega vaccination center at the Nayong Pilipino in Parañaque City, which he said, could have a major impact in the national government’s inoculation program.

Galvez, vaccine czar and chief implementer, said the construction of the mega vaccination center was approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious and Emerging Diseases (IATF-EID) through Resolution No. 109 dated April 10.

“Work on the facility should have commenced weeks ago, but so far, not a single brick or panel has been laid,” Galvez said in a statement Sunday, May 9.

The proposed mega vaccination center at Nayong Pilipino is supposed to help accelerate the implementation of the National Vaccination Program since it can accommodate 10,000 individuals daily. The construction will be spearheaded by billionaire businessman Enrique Razon Jr. through his International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) Foundation.

But a month since it was approved, the construction of the mega vaccination center has still not started since the Nayong Pilipino Foundation Board of Trustees (NPFBT) is yet to sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, the implementing arm of the IATF-EID.

This prompted Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to release a memorandum last May 4 directing the NPF board “to undertake any and all acts necessary to allow the DOH [Department of Health] or the NTF to use the NPF property.”

But the NPF board, led by its Executive Director Lucille Karen Malilong-Isberto, who recently tendered her resignation as a trustee of Nayong Pilipino, had released a statement citing technical and legal concerns on the construction of the mega vaccination center at Nayong Pilipino, as well as the possible impact of the facility on the environment.

She said Nayong Pilipino has no sewerage system as well as water or electricity connection and toilets. About 500 Ipil-Ipil trees are also at risk of being cut off to give way for the rise of the mega vaccination center.

Razon reportedly called the management of the Nayong Pilipino “idiots” for supposedly prioritizing the park’s preservation.

“We do not wish to downplay the position taken by the NPF board, but it must surely know the urgency of the situation our nation is confronting. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic more than a year ago, everything that we do is a race against time,” Galvez said.

The vaccine czar stressed that the environmental concerns of the NPF board will be addressed by known architect and urban planner, Felino “Jun” Palafox, who was hired by the ICTSI Foundation to build the vaccination facility.

Galvez said he believes it was “inappropriate” for the NPF “to equate the fate of 500 Ipil-Ipil trees with the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of Filipinos.”

“Moreover, the proposed site of the facility is a reclaimed piece of land and not a protected forest or a marine sanctuary,” he pointed out.

He emphasized that the government “deeply cares for the environment” but as the pandemic wreaks havoc on the lives of the people and economy, “we have to make the choice.”

“‘Green and open spaces’ will be useless if there will be no one to visit them,” he added.

He also vouched for the integrity of ports tycoon Razon who offered to build the vaccination center for free.

“As we have stressed, time is of the essence. A single minute, hour or day wasted due to indecision or lack of foresight could have a major impact on our vaccination program. Now is not the time for dilly-dallying. What we need is decisive action,” Galvez said.

With the expected arrival of the bulk of the vaccine orders by the second and third quarter this year, he said it is crucial to build up the country’s capability to handle and administer the vaccines. He said the key in this line of effort is the establishment of more vaccination centers nationwide.

“We can no longer afford to waste time. Time lost is opportunity lost, and worst of all, lives lost. The lives — and future — of our countrymen depends on how fast we act on it,” he said.

“We therefore call on the NPF to heed our call and sign the MOA as soon as possible. We can no longer afford to waste time. The future of our people and nation depends on it,” he concluded.