THE government needs to obligate the 173 billion pesos for Bayanihan 2 before the end of the law’s effectivity on June 30 to ramp up Covid vaccination and eventually recover from the lockdown-caused economic slump, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Sunday.
Noting the spikes in Covid cases in the provinces, the senator also said government needs a lot of catching up to do to achieve its promised herd immunity of 70 million Filipinos inoculated by the end of the year.
“Kami ay may agam-agam dahil right now 100,000 jabs a day pa lang tayo at ang projection ay dapat end of the year maka-70 million jabs tayo, at kung iko-compute natin ‘yan, dapat 700,000 a day ang ating vaccine jabs. Kulang na kulang ito,” Pangilinan said in a radio interview.
“Kapag nabawasan na ang pagkalat ng virus, saka lang maaaring manumbalik ang normalcy, kaya nakasalalay ang malaking bagay sa vaccine roll-out,” he said.
Pangilinan said that while the Department of Health is seeking for an additional 66 billion pesos for Covid response, about 173 billion pesos from Bayanihan 2 law have not been obligated or released yet with the expiration of the law on June 30 just 10 days away.
From the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing, Pangilinan said the 173 billion pesos will be sourced from the unspent funds of several government agencies and tax collections.
Citing figures from the Department of Finance, he said at least 173 billion pesos or over a fourth of Covid-19 funds remain unspent.
“Government agencies need to shape up because with this big amount, they can do a lot to ease the difficulties of the Filipinos impacted by the pandemic. It’s a sin to have this much money and be sluggish in acting,” he said.
Pangilinan earlier led the call to convene the Senate Committee of the Whole which conducted two hearings on the government’s vaccination program.
He said efforts of the Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force remain wanting in giving the jabs to Filipinos, which are seen as key to fully opening up the economy, making people go back to their jobs and giving opportunities to the jobless.
The senator cited the case of Italy, one of the countries which imposed strict lockdown, which vaccinated around 13.7 million of its citizens.
He said this resulted in an 80-percent drop in the spread of infection, 85-percent drop in the rate of hospitalization, and 95-percent drop in deaths.
“Ang laking bagay nito sa ating kamag-anakan at mahal sa buhay. Bakuna ang solusyon kaya ‘wag matakot dito,” Pangilinan said.