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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

10 February 2021 02:48:45 PM

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has filed a bill seeking to expedite the purchase and administration of COVID-19 vaccines by giving local government units (LGUs) the authority to directly purchase the life-saving shots from manufacturers without having to go through the long process of a public bidding.

Velasco’s House Bill 8648, or the proposed Emergency Vaccine Procurement Act of 2021, received bipartisan support as Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano signed as co-authors of the measure.

The bill provides exemptions to compliance by LGUs with the procurement requirements under Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act in the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines and other much-needed supplies during the pandemic.

Velasco said this mechanism would ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are “procured and administered in an expeditious, effective, efficient and equitable manner.”

“The next crucible in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is the speedy procurement and effective administration of vaccines against the deadly disease,” Velasco said.

“Time is of the essence. Each day of delay is very costly for the government, and leaves many of our vulnerable countrymen exposed to the dangers of this disease.”

According to Velasco, the LGUs play an important role in ensuring “people are protected, lives are saved, economic losses are stemmed and mitigated, and public trust and confidence in our institutions is restored.”

He said the crucial fight against COVID-19 is the vaccination process of a significant part of the population to attain herd immunity and return to normal, noting that the country could no longer absorb the economic losses of any further restriction in economic activity.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) estimates that every week of enhanced community quarantine or modified enhanced community quarantine in the National Capital Region and its adjacent regions alone shaves off 0.28 percentage points from GDP growth, which is equivalent to around P2.1 billion in lost wages a day.

NEDA also estimates that GDP fell by 16.9 percent and the unemployment rate increased to 17.7 percent during the peak of quarantine restrictions.

For the full year, GDP plunged 9.5 percent—the steepest economic contraction in Philippine history, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority which began collecting annual data in 1947.

Under HB 8648, the requirement of Phase IV trials for COVID-19 medication and vaccine stipulated in the Universal Health Care Law is waived to expedite the procurement of said medication and vaccine, provided that these are recommended and approved by the World Health Organization and other internationally recognized health agencies.

As an additional exemption to the guidelines of RA 9184, concerned LGUs are authorized to engage in an advance payment mechanism for purposes of procuring COVID19 vaccines from foreign manufacturers.

The bill allows provinces, cities and municipalities to make advance payment not exceeding 50 percent of the contract amount for the procurement of COVID-19 drugs and vaccines, unless otherwise directed by the President.

Following the advance payment of the supply of vaccines, the foreign manufacturer, in consideration of its agreement with the concerned LGU, shall undertake to deliver the supply of vaccines within six months from the perfection of the contract.

However, the availment of the advance payment mechanism is not an exemption to the post-transaction audit that the Commission on Audit (COA) must conduct on the LGUs.

The COA shall submit the post-transaction audit report to both houses of Congress before the end of the quarter when the transaction is perfected through that mode of payment.

The LGUs may only purchase vaccines that are registered with the Food and Drug Administration, or issued with an emergency use authorization status.  
The deployment of vaccines in every province, city and municipality must be in accordance with the national guidelines implemented by the Department of Health and the National Task Force Against COVID19.
Another important feature of the bill is the creation and administration of indemnification fund for the adverse events following immunization or AEFI.

Along with the monitoring of individuals who will receive the vaccine, Epidemiology and Surveillance Units of the Department of Health shall continuously survey and investigate incidents of AEFI.

Moreover, the procurement, importation, storage, transport, distribution, and administration of COVID19 vaccines by the local government units shall be exempt from customs duties, value-added tax, excise tax, and other fees, provided, that the vaccines acquired shall only be used for their residents and constituents, and not for commercial distribution.#