THE bicameral conference committee report on the proposed P165.5 billion Babangon Tayo Fund or the stimulus package to quell the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic has set aside P10 billion for the procurement of vaccines against the dreaded disease that will also be accessible to poor Filipinos.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the bicam version of the Babangon Fund or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) is based on Sec. 9 of House Bill (HB) 6953, which is intended to expedite the procurement and distribution of medication and vaccine for COVID-19 subject to conditions set by the committee.
"Once the medication and vaccine are available, we will do everything and we will really go out of our way to make sure that our kababayans can access them. Hindi na puwede na 'yung mayayaman at may-kaya lang ang makakabili nito," Cayetano said.
Cayetano added the race to get the COVID-19 medication and vaccine to the people got a boost as the bicameral conference committee on Wednesday adopted the House of Representatives’ initiative to waive the Phase IV trial requirement that had been set by the Universal Healthcare Law.
"We appreciate the swift approval of the Bicameral Conference Committee. Sa panahon ngayon, talagang dapat handa na tayo sa bigger challenge na dala ng New Normal. Dito sa Kongreso, at kasama ang Senado, we aim to respond to this challenge equipped and full-force," added Cayetano.
Phase IV trials are required under Republic Act No. 11223 or the Universal Healthcare Law, and the approved provision waives it under the following conditions:
a) the medication and vaccine are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and/or other internationally recognized health agencies;
b) minimum standards for the distribution shall be set by the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) and the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC), as may be applicable;
c) nothing in the Act shall prohibit private entities from conducting research, developing, manufacturing, importing, distributing, or selling COVID-19 vaccine sourced from registered pharmaceutical companies; and
d) the said provision shall remain in effect three months after December 19, 2020.
"Like I always say, we have to adapt, innovate, and manage in the New Normal. So, ngayon pa lang talagang naghahanda na tayo para sa vaccine. Hindi pupuwede na kung kailan nandiyan at saka pa lang tayo maghahanap ng pera. 'Yun 'yung sinasabi ko na we have to be equipped," Cayetano said.
Cayetano had earlier proposed the allocation of funds for the procurement and distribution of vaccines in the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
"Pero 'yung 2021 budget, I think for the whole month of August, d'yan po talaga mapupunta ang energy namin. Kasi napakahirap gumawa ng budget na mayroong certainty, pero ngayon gagawa ka ng budget, may uncertainty. That's why ang isang itutulak ng Kongreso ay magkaroon ng 250 to 500 billion na anti-COVID or COVID-related program na pondo," he said in a radio interview earlier.