Is PH winning COVID-19 battle? Drilon says it’s too early to tell, wants budget for booster shots placed in the programmed fund

Is PH winning COVID-19 battle? Drilon says it’s too early to tell, wants budget for booster shots placed in the programmed fund

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon on Wednesday said
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, 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. Whatever we have accomplished thus far can be
reversed when COVID-19 cases rise again or a more contagious virus
enters the country,” Drilon cautioned during Senate plenary
deliberations on the proposed P5.024 trillion national budget next
year.

The President 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,” the senator 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,” Drilon added.

This is why Drilon emphasized, the 2022 national budget should
prioritize the purchase of vaccines and the needs of the health
sector.

Drilon insisted that the funding for the procurement of booster shots
should be part of the programmed budget in 2022, fearing that the
absence of a clear source of funds may derail the procurement of the
much-needed booster shots.

He reiterated the warnings made by medical experts that the
effectiveness of the vaccines wanes.

“The efficacy of the vaccines may generally last for six months.
Therefore, the need for a booster is a certainty. Talagang sigurado na
ang pangangailangan sa booster shots when the efficacy expires,”
Drilon said.

However, the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) allocates 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.

The projects under unprogrammed funds will not be implemented until
there is an approved loan or once the government exceeds its non-tax
revenues targets.

The senator noted that the P45.7 billion for the vaccines, placed in
the unprogrammed fund is equivalent to only 1.22% 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, he stressed.

“We will go back to this cycle of lockdown of our economy and go back
again to the difficulties that we have experienced,” he added.

That is why, Drilon said, the 2022 national budget is the key to the
country’s recovery.

“The 2022 national budget should provide the much-needed impetus for
economic recovery not because of the election,” Drilon said.

“Ito po ay budget ng taumbayan, budget ng ating bansa, hindi budget ng
mga kandidato,” he added.

“Walang sektor ang dapat maiwan. Unfortunately, there may be some
sectors sidelined in the budget. Halimbawa, wala pa rin pong ayuda.
Kulang ang budget sa housing. Kulang ang tulong sa naghihingalong
tourism sector,” he lamented.

Drilon further said: “Kailangan po nating makalaya sa COVID-19. But
this cannot happen unless we put the priority correctly in this coming
budget.” (ai/mtvn)

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