DOH urged to cover funding for COVID vaccine

MANILA, Philippines, July 10 ------ The House of Representatives has given assurance of a budget allocation for potential vaccines for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday said the chamber is ready to appropriate funds for the vaccine under the national budget for next year, adding that he prefers to have the funds on hand in case a vaccine is developed and made available in the market. “What if there is a vaccine and they won’t supply unless you pay at once? So the funds should already be available in the budget,” he stressed.

The chamber also called on the Department of Health (DOH) to include it in the 2021 budget that it would propose as the executive branch is preparing the National Expenditure Program to be submitted to Congress before the budget season in August. Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez explained that the DOH – not Congress or any other agency – has the expertise to come up with estimates based on its institutional knowledge on the cost of previous vaccines and access to manufacturers. “I am suggesting that the DOH already incorporate in its budget proposal its estimated funding requirement for the doses the country needs to protect our people from coronavirus,” he said in a statement. “We will have to rely on them, especially considering that the COVID-19 vaccine is yet to be found.”

Rodriguez explained that by this time of the year, the administration has put together the proposed national budget for next year and is preparing to submit it to Congress, which is convening for its second regular session on July 27. He said the administration has a constitutional deadline of one month from July 27 to submit to Congress its proposed budget for 2021, noting that budget and finance officials have announced the budget ceiling at P4.3 trillion, about P200 billion more than this year’s P4.1 trillion.

“However, there’s still time for the DOH and the Department of Budget and Management to make adjustments to accommodate appropriations for COVID-19 vaccines. If the DOH needs more time after the budget proposal is submitted, they should tell us. We can wait for their estimates and we can introduce the needed adjustments while the House is considering the spending measure,” Rodriguez pointed out.