President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed today, February 18, a memorandum order expediting the procurement and administration of vaccines for the protection against COVID-19 by allowing more than 15% downpayment for the purchase of the said vaccines.
The Chief Executive likewise certified as urgent pending indemnifications bills, according to Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr.
“Inaasahan po natin na kapag nalagdaan na itong indemnity agreement, eh magkakaroon po ng kumpyansa ang taong bayan kase pag sila’y nadanyos, hindi na sila maghihirap sa pag kaso-kaso … bayad agad kung mayroon talaga silang side effects,” said Secretary Roque during today’s press briefing in Malacañang.
Secretary Roque discussed the need for a ‘no fault indemnification’ in light of the fact that most of the vaccines available now are yet to be issued commercial use authorization. “Dahil nasa emergency use authorization (EUA), di pa talaga tayo sigurado kung ano ang magiging side effects ng mga bakuna. Kaya kinakailangan magkaroon ng no fault indemnification,” explained Secretary Roque.
The Palace official said that Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has approved a P500 million fund for indemnification. “Itong P500 million dyan natin kukunin po lahat ng danyos na hihingin nung mga tao na diumano ay magkakaroon ng side effect dahil po sa mga bakuna,” said Secretary Roque.
National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer and Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr, who was a resource person in the same press briefing, said that the tripartite agreement with AstraZeneca already includes the indemnification agreement. As for Pfizer, Secretary Galvez said that they are still in talks with Pfizer’s country manager to work out a bilateral agreement on indemnification clause.
On the part of the vaccine manufacturers, such agreement will give them confidence that they will not be held liable in case of adverse side effects, said Sec. Roque. The indemnification agreement is a requirement that is being asked by some vaccine manufacturers before signing a supply agreement.
Meanwhile, Sec. Roque said that the COVAX Facility has issued a statement on February 16, 2021 which outlines the criteria needed for the delivery of the vaccines allocated to participating countries.
“Alam natin na naantala nga po ang pagdating ng naunang Pfizer, pero dito po sa impormasyon na ito lumalabas talaga naman pong naantala ang buong COVAX Facility hindi lamang po yung mga deliveries na inaasahan natin dito sa ating bayan na Pilipinas,” Sec Roque said.
First among the criteria required by the COVAX Facility is that country participants have to issue a regulatory authorization for the use of the vaccines, to which Roque said we have already complied with as the Philippine Food and Drug Administration has already issued an EUA for the vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
Another is that COVAX Facility participants need to sign indemnity agreements with vaccine manufacturers. “Check na din po tayo dyan dahil naisumite na din po ni Secretary Galvez yung ating indemnity agreement na hindi nga natin pananagutin ang mga kumpanya at ngayon po meron pa nga tayong certification of urgency na batas na po ang nagsasabi na yung merong mga side effects eh kukunin na ang kanilang danyos doon sa pondo na ibinigay ng ating bayan,” Roque said.
Lastly, the COVAX Facility requires Advance Market Commitment-eligible economies to submit a National Deployment and Vaccination Plan in COVID-19 platforms that were reviewed and validated by COVAX. “Check na rin po tayo dyan dahil matagal na po nating naisumite yung ating vaccine rollout plan at dahil dito naman po eh binigyan nga po tayo ng mahigit pang five million ng AstraZeneca at 115,000 na Pfizer,” said Roque.
On another matter, Roque discussed whether the Senate needs to give concurrence on the issue with the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), and whether the VFA is a treaty or an agreement. Roque said that in the case where he served as counsel for then Senate President Jovito Salonga, the Supreme Court has ruled that the VFA is not a treaty but an implementing agreement, and that the actual treaty is the Mutual Defense Treaty that was given concurrence by both the Philippines and United States Senate.
“Malinaw na malinaw po gaya ng sinag ng araw na talagang Presidente lang po ang arkitekto ng foreign policy,” said Roque. On whether the Senate has a role in foreign relations, Roque said, “Ang mga tratado po ay instrumento lamang ng foreign policy at limitadong-limitado ang papel ng mga policy makers dahil limitado po yan doon sa probisyon ng ating saligang batas na bago maging epektibo ang isang tratado sa ating bansa bilang isang batas, kinakailangan magbigay ng concurrence ang US Senate,” said the spokesmam.
Also in the same press briefing, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that the Department of Education is already preparing for the possible resumption of the implementation of pilot face-to-face classes in case the President lifts its earlier deferment. Secretary Briones said that according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Philippines is the only country in South East Asia that has not returned to face-to-face classes. ### OPS-PCOO