MANILA, Philippines — Senator Joel Villanueva is not liking the kind of trade the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is promoting to secure Covid-19 vaccines for the Filipino people.
Villanueva on Wednesday registered his opposition to DOLE’s offer to deploy more Filipino nurses to the United Kingdom and Germany in exchange for vaccines that these two countries should give to the Philippines.
“OFW (overseas Filipino workers) deployment is not a barter trade. We simply do not swap people for products,” Villanueva, chair of the Senate committee on labor, said in a statement.
“Pero ang malaking katanungan po ay paano tayo humantong sa ganitong sitwasyon? Clearly, it is out of desperation that forced otherwise good people to be more creative in finding vaccines for their country. Theirs is a ‘kapit sa patalim’ move,” he added.
DOLE is requesting the UK and Germany to provide the Philippines with Covid-19 vaccines in exchange for their exemption from the 5,000 per year limit on the deployment of Filipino nurses and other health care workers.
Villanueva questioned DOLE’s approach but he also saw where the government agency was coming from for making such a request.
“Kung ginawa lang po sana ng IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) ang kanilang tungkulin, hindi sana mapipilitan ang DOLE na dumiskarte,” the senator said.
“They were thrown in that situation because some people dropped the ball. I have very high respect for Sec Bello. He’s been very helpful not only to our committee hearings but his record shows how he walked the extra mile during this pandemic,” he added.
The Duterte administration’s mass vaccination program against the new coronavirus was supposed to start in mid-February with the arrival of 117,000 doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine through the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility. However, the delivery has been delayed because indemnification documents still have to be finalized.
The Philippines has already “locked-in” 108 million doses of vaccines but only through “term sheets” with different vaccine manufacturers.
The government has yet to sign a supply agreement with any vaccine maker but will likely ink deals with three firms by the end of February.
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