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Procurement

House starts deliberations on proposed emergency vaccine procurement law

MANILA – The House of Representatives has started plenary deliberations on the proposed Emergency Vaccine Procurement Act of 2021 which would relax procurement laws and provide for an indemnification fund for the administration of COVID-19 vaccines.

However, the pending draft of the bill does not contain an earlier proposal to empower local government units to procure the vaccine directly.

The House committee report also dropped the proposal to authorize local government units to procure COVID-19 vaccines.

Instead, that power is lodged with the Department of Health, the National Task Force either through themselves jointly or in consideration or cooperation with any national government agency or instrumentality of local government units. 

They are likewise authorized to procure COVID-19 vaccines, including ancillary supplies and services through negotiated procurement. 

Provinces, cities and municipalities may purchase only in cooperation with the DOH and the NTF through a multiparty agreement which shall include the DOH and the relevant supplier.

Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Zamboanga City 2nd District Rep. Manuel Jose Dalipe explained, “The LGUs can now procure vaccines through the tripartite agreement between the NG NTF DOH and manufacturer supplier through a negotiated procurement allowed under Sec. 53 of RA 9184 of the government procurement act.”

“We are unanimous in our call for exemption to the local government units from the compliance with the requirements under RA 9184 or the government procurement reform act in order to fast track our response against COVID-19 and revive our ailing economy,” he said.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, tried to insist on this provision. “The criticism over this particular provision is that it will leave poor LGUs behind. I answer that in fact, the national government has set aside a large pool of resources for this purpose. The national government has set aside almost 75 billion in both programmed and unprogrammed funds, ready to be unlocked with one certification by the National Treasurer, to serve as the basic vaccine safety net for everyone, including LGUs who are unable to procure vaccines for themselves. This does not mention the fact that LGUs that procure on their own are bound by a tripartite agreement that would compel them to actually share their resources with the national pool. LGUs that will be able to purchase vaccines on their own are also LGUs that are likely to be big, crowded, and critical to the national economy. “

The bill also provides for the creation and administration of an Indemnification Fund to cover Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI), and ensure the safety of individuals who will receive vaccination. The Epidemiology and Surveillance Units of the Department of Health shall continue to monitor individuals who will receive the vaccines, and investigate incidents of AEFI.

Other key provisions: the bill would waive the requirement of Phase 4 trials for COVID-19 medication and vaccine stipulated in the universal healthcare law to expedite the procurement. The bill also mandates that advanced payments for the purchase of vaccines shall be limited to a maximum of 50% of the total amount. 

Only vaccines that have been granted emergency use authorization or certificate of product registration maybe procured. 

Another key provision is that it exempts the procurement of the vaccines paying customs duties, value-added tax, excise tax, and other fees on the procurement, importation, storage, transport, distribution, and administration of COVID-19 vaccines to be used for the residents and constituents.

Salceda, in his sponsorship speech, said, “The most important national policy now is vaccine procurement. There is no national consideration more critical to our economic life than the quick, safe, and efficient rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. This has to be made in a manner that inspires confidence in our people and confidence in our systems.”

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