BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson said yesterday that he had signed a non-disclosure agreement with a pharmaceutical company to purchase vaccines, worth P30 million, against the coronavirus disease 2019.
While he did not elaborate on the details, Lacson said the budget will be taken from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.
This is on top of the P72.5 billion allocation by the national government for the purchase of vaccines, and Lacson said he expects that Negros Occidental will have a share from it.
Lacson said that medical frontliners will be the top priority in the vaccination, followed by vulnerable senior citizens, indigents, and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the National Police.
Lacson also encouraged local government units in the province, especially the cities, to also allocate funds for the purchase of vaccines for their constituents.
Former Rep. Alfredo Benitez, now provincial consultant on economic affairs, is heading the procurement effort, and said recently that he was negotiating for Negros Occidental to be among the first provinces in the country to avail of the vaccines early this year.
“We already have an agreement with the national government for the purchase of the vaccines and it is trying to negotiate with US-based Moderna or Chinese biotech Sinovac for allocations,” Benitez said.
Meanwhile, Lacson and Provincial Incident Management Team head Zeaphard Gerhart Caelian, said yesterday that they expect an increase in the number of infection after the holiday season, and with the influx of locally stranded individuals, after the moratorium on their return to towns and cities in Negros Occidental had lapsed.
Anticipating also the possible entry of the new Covid-19 variant into the country, Lacson said the province will continue its vigilance and strict implementation of health protocols, such as subjecting all those coming into Negros to swab tests.
“That’s the only way to keep track, or monitor the contagion,” he stressed.
Caelian said that 205 Negrense LSIs were expected to arrive yesterday, on top of the 102 who arrived Sunday from Manila.
He reported that five LSIs also tested positive for Covid, aside from the 10 LSIs who were previously infected.
Caelian also said the healing centers of the province are ready to accommodate arriving LSIs for quarantine purposes. As of Jan. 3, Negros Occidental had 152 active cases, the PIMT added.*