SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House Committee on Ways and Means on Monday approved the tax provision of a bill filed by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco authorizing local government units (LGUs) to directly purchase COVID-19 vaccines from manufacturers without having to go through the long process of a public bidding.
Section 6 of House Bill (HB) 8648 or the proposed Emergency Vaccine Procurement Act of 2021 provides tax exemptions for the procurement, importation, storage, transport, distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines by LGUs.
These vaccines will be exempted from customs duties, value-added tax, excise tax and other fees provided that the shots to be acquired by LGUs “shall only be used for their residents and constituents, and not for commercial distribution.”
Last Thursday, the House Committee on Appropriations also approved HB 8648, which generally seeks to expedite the purchase and administration of COVID-19 vaccines by allowing LGUs to directly purchase the life-saving shots from foreign manufacturers.
Speaker 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,” he added.
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.
HB 8648 provides exemptions to compliance by LGUs with the procurement requirements under Republic Act (RA) 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act in the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines and other much-needed supplies during the pandemic.
The measure also provides that 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.
Under the bill, 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 COVID-19.
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.#