Congress to pass 2 bills to hasten vax rollout

House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Sunday assured the public that a bill on establishing an indemnification fund for people who would suffer adverse effects of COVID-19 vaccines would be passed.

“We welcome the President’s certification on the measure. The approval on second and on third reading this Monday’s session is a top priority,” he said.

“Congress is doing everything to expedite the process of ensuring safe and affordable vaccines for Filipinos,” he said.

“The proposed law will help speed up the procurement process and implementation of COVID-19 vaccines,” he said.

The President has certified as urgent House Bill No. 8648 that would authorize local government units to directly buy COVID-19 vaccines from the manufacturers without a public bidding.

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco filed HB No. 8648 or the proposed Emergency Vaccine Procurement Act of 2021with Romualdez, and Minority Leader and Abang Lingkod party-list Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano as co-authors.

Meanwhile, the Senate hopes to finish today (Monday) Senate Bill No. 2057 or the vaccination bill, which seeks to hasten the procurement and rollout of COVID-19 vaccines after the President certified it as urgent.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, sponsor of the bill, and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said they did not expect a bicameral conference committee to expedite passage of the bill.

He said they can just adopt one version of the bill-either the version of the House of Representatives or the Senate.

Zubiri said Senate Bill No. 2057 is actually their priority bill, which will be tackled first hour on Monday.

He said they have no other agenda for that day except the vaccination bill so they can finish it.

Senate Bill No. 2057 also seeks to protect local executives making advance payments for their vaccine purchases from lawsuits.

Also on Sunday, party-list Rep. Mike Defensor said more Filipinos are likely to favor vaccinations done through corporate health maintenance organizations (HMOs).

“We would like to believe that corporations are trusted by their employees, so they will be more inclined to get vaccinated if it is coursed through the clinics of their HMOs,” he said.

“Many business process outsourcing (BPO) and bank staff, for example, may readily favor receiving vaccination arranged by their HMOs,” he added.

HMOs are also in an excellent position to help employers explain to their workers the benefits of inoculation, he said.

“Government will need the help of the entire private corporate sector if we want to rapidly immunize a larger portion of the population. This is absolutely imperative if we want to reopen more sectors of the economy and avert further job losses,” he said.

A previous survey by Pulse Asia Inc. showed that only 32 percent of Filipinos were willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, while 47 percent said they were not willing to be immunized. Twenty-one percent said they were undecided.

A poll by OCTA Research Group indicated that only 25 percent of Filipinos were willing to be vaccinated.

“We would urge government agencies to require corporations within their regulatory jurisdiction to submit their plans to immunize their workers as part of their business sustainability management,” the party-list lawmaker said.

“Local governments can also help by requiring corporations within their territories to tender their workforce vaccination plans,” he said.

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