Sotto wants Senate hearing on proposed use of vaccine passports

Senate President Vicente Sotto III will be calling for a public hearing on the government's plan to use vaccine passports as part of the country's travel and health protocols amid the persisting COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate President Vicente 'Tito' Sotto III leads on July 26, 2021 the opening of the third regular session of the upper chamber under the 18th Congress. (Senate PRIB)

Sotto on Wednesday, August 11, said he will be filing a resolution to prompt Senate inquiry.

"A public hearing would be the best way to hear all sides," the Senate chief told the Manila Bulletin in a text message.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the government has started developing a "vaccine passport", which will serve as a proof of vaccination of a person to facilitate movement in and out of the country.

The passport could be used in entry points and "could form part of Philippine health protocols", Nograles said.

In the Senate, Senator Grace Poe filed a bill that would expand the use of the current vaccination cards for international and domestic travels, as well as entry to establishments and public places. Poe, however, clarified that the move shall not make vaccination mandatory.

Sotto has been opposed to restricting movement of people who have yet to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus disease.

"We should not force our people to be vaccinated if they refuse," he tweeted last August 2. "This is a free country!" he pointed out.

There were also contentions about the use of the word "passport" when senators were tackling the vaccination certification last February, with some of them saying this could result in discrimination against unvaccinated people.

Earlier, President Duterte wanted to prohibit unvaccinated individuals from going out of their homes. He even called for a law that would penalize them.

His spokesman later clarified that the government will not implement Duterte's plan until a majority of the population has already been inoculated against the virus.

Sotto heads the Senate Committee of the Whole, which has been discussing the government's responses to the COVID-19 outbreak.