DOLE wants OFWs, minimum wage earners included among priorities for COVID-19 vaccine

Marje Pelayo   •   December 21, 2020   •   326

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) wants overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and minimum wage workers to be among the first to receive the vaccine for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) once it becomes available.

In an interview with UNTV, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said minimum wage earners comprise about 60% to 70% of the country’s overall workforce thus, they also should be prioritized in the administration of COVID-19 vaccines.

Kailangan tiyakin natin ang kaligtasan ng ating mga minimum wage workers para matiyak natin din yung ating negosyo at ang ating economic recovery (We need to ensure the safety of our minimum wage workers so we can guarantee the success of our businesses and economic recovery),” Bello said.

He also reiterated that overseas Filipino workers play an important role in the country’s economy in the form of remittances, hence they should be listed at least among the top six in the order of priority.

Doon naman sa mga Overseas Filipino Workers, tinagurian silang bagong bayani, modern day heroes so they should be treated as modern days heroes (Overseas Filipino workers are considered modern-day heroes so they should be treated as that),” the Secretary said.

ALU-TUCP Spokesperson Alan Tanjusay supports the idea saying workers are exposed to threats of COVID-19 and the possibility of transmission is high.

He also suggested the possibility of investors leaving the country and transferring to other countries that are already administering the vaccine.

May posibilidad na magsilipat ang mga investors doon sa mga bansang nabakunahan na dahil regular na ang mobility nila, ang pagbyahe ng mga manggagawa (There is a possibility that investors would go to countries where vaccines are available because mobility and travel of workers there are back to normal),” Tanjusay argued.

DOLE said the expenses for the vaccination may be shouldered by either the government or the employers.

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) said big companies could probably afford to shoulder the expenses.

The only concern, he said, are the small and medium companies that comprise about 90% of businesses in the country.

Kahit anong gawin natin hindi kayang magpabakuna noon. Iyon nga lang 13th month pay alam mo naman nagkahirapan tayo. Iyon pa kaya sa bakuna na iyan (Whatever we do they wouldn’t be able to afford the vaccine. They can hardly provide for their workers’ 13th month pay, how much more for the vaccine),” said ECOP president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr.

The employers’ group said, it should be the government that will shoulder the expenses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

ECOP said it is still up to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) as to who they want to prioritize for the vaccination and not all workers are obliged to take it. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

DOF OKs inclusion of COVID-19 vaccine imports in express lane for tax processing

Robie de Guzman   •   February 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – All importations of COVID-19 vaccines will now be included in the “Mabuhay” or express lane of the Department of Finance to allow quick processing of the tax and duty exemptions of these shipments, the department said.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the DOF said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III approved the inclusion of vaccine imports to allow for the expedited processing of the tax and exemptions for vaccine applications.

Under Department Order 29-94, the Mabuhay Lane is tasked to expeditiously process applications for the tax and duty exemption of certain groups of importers, which include export-oriented firms, returning residents (balikbayans) and non-profit, non-stock educational institutions.

COVID-19 vaccine tax exemption applications in the Mabuhay Lane, which is under the DOF’s Revenue Office, will be processed within 24 working hours, the department said.

These tax exemption policies will be incorporated in the inter-agency guidelines on the implementation of a one-stop shop for international donations and government-procured COVID-19 vaccines, the department added.

Dominguez also approved the waiving of filing fees for COVID-19 vaccine applications under the Mabuhay Lane and the use of the Tax Exemption System Online Filing Module in processing the vaccine imports “to further support the government’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program.”

“We add that the Mabuhay Lane currently processes all Relief Consignment under Section 120 in relation to 121 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA). The Lane is expected to process all COVID-19 vaccines which may qualify as relief consignment,” Finance Undersecretary Antonette Tionko said.

Relief Consignment refers to goods donated to national government agencies and accredited private entities for free distribution to, or for the use of, victims of calamities.

Under Section 121 of the CMTA, relief consignment imported during a state of calamity and intended for the use of calamity victims shall be exempted from the payment of duties and taxes.

COVID-19 inoculation mandatory but soldiers can choose brand – AFP spox

Robie de Guzman   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The vaccination of military personnel against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will be mandatory although the soldiers can choose which brand to receive, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Thursday.

In a virtual press briefing, AFP Spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said all soldiers will be obliged to get inoculated as ordered by AFP chief of staff Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana.

The directive came even as the military has yet to ascertain where its vaccine supply will be coming from, or if they are among those who will receive the first 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by the Chinese government.

“Ang Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas po is not like any ordinary organizations. Tayo po ay nasa service-orientated organization. Tayo po ang inaasahan sa napakaraming mabibigat na tungkulin kagaya nga po ng pagharap sa pandemya as early as 2020. Kaya sinabi natin na hindi opsyon ang pag-ayaw. Subalit kinikilala natin yung kanilang kagustuhan ng brand na gusto nila” he said.

Military personnel who will be choosing other brands of the vaccine will need to pay for their own jabs, Arevalo said.

Those who refuse to get vaccinated will face sanctions under military rules, he added.

“We are an organization under military regulations. So, ang pagtupad sa mga regulasyon o sa mga tinatadhana ng existing legal orders buhat sa ating mga superiors just like this one from the AFP Chief of Staff, no less, will be dealt with disciplinary actions kung hindi nila susundin,” he said.

“But we are confident na hindi na tayo darating sa punto na iyon,” he added.

The AFP said all its employees and troops assigned in the medical and healthcare units will be the first to get inoculated against COVID-19.

The donated Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines from China are expected to arrive in the country this weekend. RRD (with details from Correspondent Joan Nano)

Office of the President eyeing Sinopharm vaccine for PRRD under compassionate use

Marje Pelayo   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the President is studying the possibility of also administering Sinopharm vaccine to President Rodrigo Duterte by way of compassionate use license.

Malacañang is referring to the 10,000 doses that the Food and Drug Administration had earlier granted compassionate special permit intended for the use of the Presidential Security Group (PSG).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque during a televised press briefing on Thursday said, the president’s legal team is studying whether there is a “legal basis” for this option.

“They are studying kung pupuwedeng gamitin iyong compassionate use para legal basis for the President to have the Sinopharm vaccines but it is still being studied by the Malacanang legal office,” he said.

Roque believes that, as the vaccine is intended for the President’s men, he is also qualified to be given the vaccine being the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Sinopharm is also the brand of choice of the chief executive, he said.

“If you ask me as a lawyer, he is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and he should be allowed to use the Sinopharm under the compassionate use license,” Roque said.

It can be recalled that several members of the PSG were inoculated with Sinopharm vaccines even without proper authorization from the FDA.

Meanwhile, the Palace maintained that the PSG has yet to receive the said 10,000 doses under the compassionate special permit.

The Sinopharm vaccine maker also has not yet applied for an emergency use authorization from the FDA. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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