JABS FROM CHINA. A total of 1.5 million doses of Sinovac vaccines arrive from China on Friday (May 7, 2021). The country will need PHP20 billion this year and PHP90 billion next year to fund its vaccine needs. (PNA photo by Joey Razon)

MANILA – The Senate will ramp up the country’s fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) through several measures, starting with the proposed Bayanihan 3 Act.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said he and Senate President Vicente Sotto III met with the heads of the three Covid-19 response clusters – vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., testing czar Secretary Vince Dizon, and contact tracing chief Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong Jr. – on Thursday night to discuss, among others red tape issues and funding needs.

On top of the needs is a fund of PHP90 billion for next year’s vaccine procurement, to be included in the regular budget of the Department of Health.

"This is to be itemized for vaccines, instead of putting it under the unprogrammed fund, thus ensuring its availability," Lacson said in a statement.

Also discussed was the PHP20 billion budget for this year's vaccine procurement under the Bayanihan 3.

He said he would propose the realignment of unused appropriations of several executive agencies.

Lacson said they also tackled the suspension of certain provisions of the Data Privacy Act to address the difficulties encountered by Magalong and red tape in the Food and Drug Administration that hampers government efforts against Covid-19.

It was also discussed during the meeting that the business sector committed to make available spaces in malls and hotel ballrooms for some 5,000 vaccination centers, 1,200 of which are in Metro Manila.

"With proper budget and lots of help from the business sector and local government units, herd immunity may yet still be achieved. Cooperation is key," Lacson said.

Meanwhile, Senator Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go, chair of the Committee on Health and Demography, said in a statement that the arrival of 1.5 million doses of Sinovac vaccines on Friday and two million doses of AstraZeneca jabs on Saturday would sustain inoculation efforts.

Go described the deliveries as timely as the country celebrates Health Workers' Day on Friday.

"Gusto ko pong pasalamatan ang ating mga healthcare workers at mga volunteers sa serbisyo ninyo sa bayan sa panahon ng Covid-19. Walang katumbas ang sakripisyo ninyo para malampasan natin ang pandemyang ito (I would like to thank our health care workers and volunteers for their services to the country during the Covid-19 pandemic. Your sacrifices are unequalled.) The entire nation owes you a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid," he said. (PNA)