Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon cautioned Duterte administration officials against prematurely claiming victory over the Covid-19 contagion, citing reports it is still “too premature” to say so and instead pressed for timely release of additional funds for anti-Covid booster shots.
Drilon reminded Wednesday “it is too early to say that the Philippines is winning the battle against Covid-19,” citing the pandemic’s devastating effects on the economy, including lost jobs that need to be recovered, businesses needing government intervention, and, “most importantly, the need for booster shots for next year.”
“I think it is difficult to dispute that our country’s recovery is still in limbo,” rues Drilon, adding; “Whatever we have accomplished thus far can be reversed when Covid-19 cases rise again or a more contagious virus enters the country.”
The Senate minority leader cautioned colleagues during plenary deliberations on the proposed P5.024-trillion national budget next year, recalling that President Duterte had earlier claimed that the country is winning the battle against Covid-19.
“We are happy to hear the President saying that we are winning the battle against Covid-19,” Drilon said. “However, I think it’s too early to tell especially with the recent survey done by Bloomberg that our country is the least resilient among those surveyed and, therefore, the worst place to be in during the pandemic. We face a long road to recovery,” he added.
The senator stressed that this was why “the 2022 national budget should prioritize the purchase of vaccines and the needs of the health sector” as he insisted that the funding for the procurement of booster shots should be part of the programmed budget in 2022.
Voicing fears that the absence of a clear source of funds may derail the procurement of the much-needed booster shots, Drilon likewise reiterated the warnings aired by medical experts that the effectiveness of the vaccines wanes.
“The efficacy of the vaccines may generally last for six months,” warned Drilon, adding: “Therefore, the need for a booster is a certainty. Talagang sigurado na ang pangangailangan sa booster shots when the efficacy expires.”
He, however, recalled that the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) allocated P45 billion for purchase of Covid-19 booster shots placed in the unprogrammed fund and another P16.2 billion in the programmed fund supposedly to inoculate 113 million Filipinos next year.
Drilon noted that projects under unprogrammed funds would not be implemented until there is an approved loan or once the government exceeds its non-tax revenues targets. He pointed out, for instance, that the P45.7 billion for the vaccines, placed in the unprogrammed fund, is equivalent to only 1.22 percent of the target revenue collections next year and, therefore, the government is capable of funding it through taxes or revenues.
“If booster shots are not administered timely and properly, it could put the population at risk again,” Drilon warned, adding: “We will go back to this cycle of lockdown of our economy and go back again to the difficulties that we have experienced.”