Duterte seeks vaccine priority for slum dwellers

Published May 18, 2021, 3:59 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

As the government ramps up its vaccination efforts, President Duterte has appealed to the country’s well-off citizens to let their poor fellowmen get ahead of the coronavirus vaccination line.

A health worker gives a coronavirus vaccine shot to a Manila resident while others wait for their turn at the Manila Prince Hotel on May 18, 2021. (Ali Vicoy/Manila Bulletin)

The President issued the appeal after endorsing moves to prioritize the vaccination of the country’s poor population, especially those living in slum areas, to enhance their protection against the coronavirus.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. earlier proposed the early vaccination of economic frontliners and the indigent population as more coronavirus vaccines arrive in the country. The proposal gained the approval of the President and the Cabinet.

“Itong sinasabi ko na mga subdivisions. Kung may mga subdivisions na medyo nalagay sa upper, pahuli muna kayo. Tutal kung gusto ninyo makabili rin kayo (To the upper class living in subdivisions, please be the last in line. Besides, you can eventually buy your own). But then again, I said you have so many things in your hands to protect you),” the President said during a televised address aired Tuesday.

“Samantalang ito namang mga squatters ang bahay nila dikit-dikit, so the transmission is really as fast as the virus can travel. Dito naman sa subdivision may mga bahay (The squatters on the other hand are living in the slums so the transmission is really as fast as the virus can travel. They don’t have houses in subdivisions),” he said.

The President assured the country’s rich that they would receive their vaccines “in due time.”

For now, Duterte said the poor should be given “leeway” to get protection first against the coronavirus especially amid the threat of the new variants. He said while informal settlers tend to “forget protocols,” those living in “well-off subdivisions” can easily isolate and have someone buy food and other items for them.

“My request to you early on sa pag-umpisa nito na unahin ninyo ‘yong mga mahihirap,” he said during a meeting with Galvez and other government officials on pandemic response Monday. “If there is a difficulty in getting them out of their respective communities, kayo na ang papasok doon, enter the place, and do the vaccination there,” he said.

Duterte clarified that his appeal to the rich was not due to any grudge against them. The government, he pointed out, has a “sacred duty” to look after the poor who lack money for medicines and other needs to cope with the pandemic.

“We’re all human beings, all Filipinos. Give this a little elbowroom or a leeway for the poor to be protected first because they are at a loss actually of where to go,” he said.

“They are always at the mercy of their poverty so it is the sacred duty of government to look after them first,” he added.

Apart from the poor, the President asked Galvez to give priority to the country’s soldiers and policemen in the vaccination drive. He said the government needed these uniformed personnel to help keep peace and order in the country.

The government has administered more than 3 million coronavirus vaccines since the inoculation drive started last March. Health workers, senior citizens, and people with comorbidity are currently receiving vaccine priority.