MANILA – The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Wednesday said that no trees will be affected in the proposed construction of a mega vaccination facility at Nayong Pilipino in Parañaque City.
The agency stressed that the environment is "of paramount consideration" in the architectural plans of Architect Jun Palafox, the head of the team who will design the facility.
"Some 500 trees will allegedly be affected by this initiative. This is false. No trees will be affected," the DOT said.
"The architectural team has made sure to build the temporary vaccination facility around existing grasslands and trees," it added, noting that the Nayong Filipino Foundation (NPF) was informed about this.
The DOT said it came out with the statement to correct the claims of Atty. Lucille Karen Malilong-Isberto, former Executive Director of the NPF, which it said misrepresents the facts surrounding the initiative.
Malilong-Isberto, in a Tuesday interview with ANC, said that the NPF already approved the construction, but noted that legal processes must be followed.
She also explained that it would be "illegal" for the NPF to give the land for free use to International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) Foundation, the vaccination site's funder, on the basis of "a mere letter and a YouTube video".
Among others, she said the memorandum of agreement (MOA) "should be clear as to what exactly will be done in Nayong Pilipino" and must be signed by a government agency such as the Department of Health (DOH).
In response, the DOT emphasized that it is the DOH that will enter into a MOA with NPF and will also oversee the operations of ICTSI on the site.
It added that the health department already "expressed support" to the initiative and even formed a technical working group under the National Vaccination Operations (NVOC-TWG) to thresh out technicalities related to the facility.
"The DOH did not mention that it is against the mega vaccination site and has in fact commended the DOT for the initiative. Atty. Isberto-Malilong has attended at least three of these meetings with the NVOC-TWG," it said.
The proposal to construct the mega vaccination site was approved by no less than the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) through Resolution 109 dated April 10, 2021.
And for DOT, this alone is proof that there is a consensus among the 26 agencies of the government, headed by their respective Secretaries. "The Secretary of Health himself is the signatory of the Resolution, being the chairman of the IATF," it said.
Further, it explained that the use of the vacant lot is aligned with Presidential Decree No. 1445 or the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines which allows government funds or properties to be used solely for public purposes.
"The vaccination of thousands of Filipinos everyday is definitely for a public purpose; it is not a commercial venture," the DOT said.
"The land will not be used for any income-generating purpose, and under the draft MOA for the use of the property, which will be between DOH and NPF, the use of the NPF Property will be time-bound or for one year reckoned from the date of signing of the said agreement and will be exclusively used as a vaccination center within the purview of the government’s national vaccination program," it said.
At present, the NPF's Board of Trustees has yet to sign a MOA on the establishment of the said facility. (PNA)