With the country hard-pressed to achieve herd immunity this year, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año wants a very hard or strict stance in encouraging people to get the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) jab.
In a briefing with the President Monday night, Nov. 29, Año noted that the Philippines has been one of the most lenient countries in enforcing the COVID-19 vaccination process saying that other European countries had stripped their unvaccinated citizens with their “privileges.’’
“Hindi pa naman natin ima-mandatory (getting COVID-19 vaccines) (We will not make it mandatory as of now) but at least we’ll make it harder for them to leave while there is pandemic.’’ Año said.
With some local government units (LGUs) having strict vaccination rules, Año urged the other local chief executives (LCE) to follow the path taken by Narvacan, Ilocos Sur mayor Luis “Chavit’’ Singson that prohibits his unvaccinated constituents from leaving their barangays and going to the town.
“Nag-announce na po siya (Singson) na sa bayan niya hindi na welcome ang unvaccinated (He announced that unvaccinated people are not welcome in his hometown. At yung mga unvaccinated, hindi puwedeng pumunta ng bayan at diyan lang sa bahay. Well, unless kung mayroon siyang RT-PCR na negative (test results) (And the unvaccinated are barred from going to town and just stay home. Well, unless tested negative for the RT-PCR test results),’’ he added.
The DILG chief exhorted the public to get their COVID-19 jabs as the vaccines are free “and they can go to any vaccination site and that is for their own good.’’
Año also reminded individuals shunning the vaccines that COVID-19 chooses now one and can afflict the poor and rich alike with treatment reaching exorbitant costs.
“Dalawang million po ‘yan (COVID-19 treatment) eh kapagka critical or severe. Iyan po ang billing niya. Kung indigenous ‘yan, government pa rin po ‘yung magbabayad niyan. At kung mamatay ‘yan pati cremation niyan sa (funds) Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) po kukunin. Eh kung siya ay vaccinated, protected na siya and productive citizen pa. (Critical or severe treatment is P2 million. That is the cost of it. If the person is indigenous, the government shoulders the expenses. And if the person dies even the cremation will be taken from the DSWD. The vaccinated person is protected and a productive citizen),’’ Año noted.
While mandatory national vaccination laws are absent, Año revealed that the local chief executives (LCE) may exercise their power to enforce mandatory inoculation of their constituents and is considered legal unless stopped by the courts.
In a separate interview on Nov. 30, Año expressed satisfaction over the estimated 2.4 million Filipinos who got inoculated in the first day of the National Vaccination Days on Nov. 29 but admitted “adjustments would be made’’ as some LGUs faced challenges during the process.
Among the difficulties faced by some LGUs during the first day of the three-day inoculation drive was the failure of a number of localities to accommodate the large number of people who went to vaccination sites.
In the event a huge number of persons troops to one inoculation location, Año assured that those who cannot be accommodated can be easily transferred to the adjacent vaccination sites.
He also reiterated that the LGUs should be prepared to accommodate walk-ins or those who go to vaccination sites without registrations.
“Dapat meron tayong maga-assist dun at in manual na lang yung pag-rehistro para hindi masayang ang punta ng kababayan natin (There should be someone to assist them and make their registration in a manual manner so that the efforts of the citizen would not go to waste),’’ Año lamented. (Chito A. Chavez)