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Duterte: No vaccine rollout, no MGCQ

President Rodrigo Duterte has refused to place the entire Philippines under the least restrictive modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) until after the government kicks off its vaccination drive, Malacañang said last night.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the President’s preference not to shift to MGCQ unless there is a vaccine rollout was raised during the ongoing Cabinet meeting.

“President Rodrigo Duterte gave his directive to the Cabinet that the Philippines would not be placed under modified general community quarantine unless there is a rollout of vaccines,” he said in a statement.

While Duterte acknowledged the need to reopen the economy, Roque said the President refused to put people’s health and safety at risk.

“The Chief Executive recognizes the importance of reopening the economy and its impact on people’s livelihoods. However, the President gives higher premium to public health and safety,” he added.

Roque said Duterte also emphasized his desire for vaccination to start the soonest possible time to ease the community quarantine.

In a separate message, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go said Duterte thinks that further easing the nationwide quarantine classification is “not to the best interest of the country.”

Citing the President, Go said Duterte’s “conscience” would not allow a transition to MGCQ because he is concerned that “something might go wrong.”

Go said Duterte expressed confidence that his economic managers will understand his decision.

He noted that Duterte reiterated his preference not to allow the dry run of face-to-face classes until the immunization program starts.

The national government is expected to kick off its vaccination drive this month with the arrival of initial doses of Covid-19 vaccines.

Earlier, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte will decide on the next quarantine classification based on current Covid-19 data analytics.

He said Duterte has thumbed down the proposal to hold pilot in-person classes next month, but is open to the conduct the dry run by August.

“I guess what he is anticipating is, since we will begin vaccination this month, we will be way ahead of our vaccination in August to give us the confidence to resume at least limited face-to-face education,” he said.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and the National Economic and Development Authority have recommended that the government push through with a nationwide MGCQ and with pilot in-person classes next month.

The health department reported yesterday 2,288 new Covid-19 infections that increased the country’s tally to 563,456 cases.

INDEMNITY FUND

The House of Representatives, meanwhile, approved on second reading yesterday a measure establishing a vaccine indemnity fund and expediting the purchase of vaccines against Covid-19.

The chamber passed through voice voting House Bill 8648, or the proposed Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act, that has been certified urgent by Duterte.

Under the bill, the DOH and the National Task Force Against Covid-19 shall be authorized to procure Covid-19 vaccines, including ancillary supplies and services necessary for their storage, transport, deployment and administration, through negotiated procurement under emergency cases, as defined in Republic Act 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

The bill also allows local government units and private entities to procure vaccines directly from manufacturers.

The bill seeks to allow LGUs to engage in an advance payment mechanism not exceeding 50 percent of the total contract price for the procurement of the vaccines.

It proposes the creation of a Covid-19 national vaccine indemnity fund, worth P500 million, to compensate any person inoculated through the Covid-19 vaccination program, in case of death, permanent disability, or hospitalization confinement for serious adverse events.

It provides tax exemptions for the procurement, importation, storage, transport, distribution, and administration of Covid-19 vaccines.

Under the bill, the vaccines will be exempted from customs duties, value-added tax, excise tax, and other fees.

The DOH shall be mandated to issue a vaccine passport to all Filipinos, which shall be a record of the Covid-19 vaccinations received by an individual.

Individuals who have completed the Covid-19 immunization may be granted certain benefits or exemptions, such as international travel, non-essential domestic travel, local checkpoint and quarantine exemptions, and access to business establishments.*PNA

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