Senator Chiz Escudero on Monday pressed anew the government to lift the “veil of secrecy” on all COVID-19 vaccine purchases.
While millions of vaccine shots have allegedly expired, Escudero pointed out that the responsibility to disclose the details of the billions spent for them does not go stale.
“The vaccines do not carry an immunity from accountability,” Escudero stressed.
He demanded a full-blown audit on the vaccine expenditures “because until today, even the total amount spent could not be determined.”
“If you ask government agencies how much was spent for how many, you will get different answers, if that is you get a reply. There were reports about P300 billion and some admitted on the floor it was P145 billion,” he said.
“Vaccine purchases bloated our debt. We bought them using borrowed money, with our children’s future i come as collateral. And yet we don’t know the full details of it, “Escudero lamented.
But what concerned him the most is that the cost of each dose remained “the greatest unsolved mystery” in public expenditures.
Until now, he said no price list yet on how much the Sinovac, Moderna, Pfizer and others were procured. And yet, we fine small grocery stores for not complying with the price tag law, Escudero noted.
Escudero doubted if the so-called “non-disclosure agreement” (NDA) that the government had signed with vaccine manufacturers prior to the purchases could be used as an excuse to hide procurement details.
“For one, the NDA goes against Section 6 (transparency clause) of Republic Act 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, which requires the publication of the approved budget of contract and the amount of contract awarded on vaccine purchases,” the senator explained.
Escudero said the NDA is a “new breed of an excuse” to evade accountability and it should be stopped.
He stressed that the NDA has immobilized agencies from divulging details on the single biggest pandemic-era procurement by the government, creating a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” culture.
Escudero urged the Commission on Audit (COA) to subpoena documents and the Department of Health (DOH) and other agencies served to comply.It was reported that out of the 245 million doses of COVID 19 vaccines that the government had bought or received for free, some 44 million had expired by end of 2022.
Meanwhile, the seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate in the National Capital Region (NCR) increased slightly from 1.6 percent as of Feb. 11 to 1.7 percent as of Feb. 18, the OCTA Research Group said Monday.
The positivity rate refers to the percentage of people who were found positive for COVID-19 among the total number of individuals tested. Such rate also increased in these areas as of Feb. 18:
Cebu: from 0.8% to 1.4%
· Davao del Sur: from 2.8% to 3.8%
· Iloilo: from 0.5% to 1.0%
· Negros Occidental: 1.6% to 1.8%
· Pangasinan: from 0.8% to 0.9%
Meanwhile, other areas reflected a decrease in their positivity rates as follows:
· Batangas: from 1.1% to 0.7%
· Bulacan: from 0.8% to 0.7%
· Cavite: from 1.6% to 1.4%
· Laguna: from 1.9% to 1.1%
· Pampanga: from 1.5% to 0.7%
“The positivity rates in NCR and other major provinces remained low at less than 5 percent,” OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David said in a tweet.
OCTA based its figures from the data of the Department of Health (DOH).
The World Health Organization’s benchmark for positivity rate is 5 percent.
The Philippines reported 142 new infections of COVID-19 on Sunday, data released by the DOH showed.
This is the fifth straight day the country has recorded over 100 new cases, and brings the country’s total caseload to 4,075,524.
The country currently has 9,182 active cases.
Recoveries stood at 4,000,321 or 193 more than the previous day, the highest in four days.
There were 13 new deaths reported—the highest in three days after two straight days of fewer than 10 new deaths—bringing the total fatalities to 66,021.