Duterte backed on reward for anybody who could discover COVID-19 vaccine

THE statement of President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte giving P10-million reward to any person who will discover a vaccine against coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) was a recognition of the Filipino people excellence and ingenuity, a lawmaker said on Thursday.

Ako Bisaya party-list Rep. Sonny Lagon strongly backed President Duterte’s suggestion, including a “substantial grant” for the University of the Philippines (UP) and the UP Philippine General Hospital (PGH) to support the development of a vaccine to defeat COVID-19.

“We rally behind the President’s reward system to any Filipino who can invent a vaccine to eliminate COVID-19. This is another proud moment for our race being virtually part of a global effort in finding a cure to this pandemic,” Lagon, a staunch ally and friend of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) led by House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep.

Martin Romualdez who is the party president, stressed.

“This is a recognition and acknowledgement of brilliance, resourcefulness and skills of the Filipino race in this time of crisis,” Lagon pointed out.

Lagon expressed strong belief that Filipino’s excellence will contribute big in “the world’s quest to find a cure to the respiratory disease behind global shutdown.”

“We are always hopeful that normalcy to our daily lives will resume with the inventiveness and creative attitude of Filipinos,” said Lagon.

At the moment, Lagon joined calls for Filipinos to cooperate with the extended enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to help flatten the curve of COVID-19.

“Let’s support President Duterte in all his plans and programs to defeat COVID-19,” said Lagon.

But House Assistant Minority Leader and Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list Rep. France Castro slammed the P10 million, saying the Duterte administration should put funding for research and development and public health programs now instead of waiting for a vaccine to be discovered.

"President Duterte giving a P10 million reward for any Filipino who will discover the COVID-19 vaccine yet his administration has not provided enough budget for scientists, researchers and health facilities to adequately face the battle against COVID-19," said Castro.

"President Duterte should instead immediately put this P10 million to research and development to aid scientists in their quest to find a vaccine to COVID-19. The Duterte administration continues to use military solutions to fight a worsening health crisis due to the state's neglect to ensure enough funds for public health and research and development programs. This administration's budget prioritization has left our health and research and development programs with annual budget cuts allowing our public health facilities to have limited capacities to stop the further spread of a virus such as COVID-19," Castro explained.

In the national budget for 2020, Castro said the overall budget for the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) is a minimal P20.27 billion while the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development under the DOST only has a budget of P642 million.

Castro aid the budget of the Department of Health (DoH) for Epidemiology and Surveillance Program on the other hand was slashed by more than half from its budget in 2019 from P262,997,000 to P115,501,000 for 2020.

"Budget cuts of vital programs for public health made by the Duterte administration has led to a poor public health system that is not prepared for a pandemic such as COVID-19. The P10 million reward for the COVID-19 vaccine and the grants President Duterte has been floating should have been budgeted into the public health system and research and development before the pandemic happened," Castro complained.

"We are now into the sixth week of the extended Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), many vulnerable sectors have yet to receive government relief and medical solutions such as mass testings and contact tracing teams to suspected, probable and confirmed cases of COVID-19 have yet to be implemented," said Castro.

"Now more than ever, the Duterte administration should impose systematic medical solutions and put in funding for research and development programs now rather than promising a grant to scientists and researchers after discovering a vaccine to COVID-19," Castro said.