Indonesia

Let LGUs compete to speed up vaccination | Manny B. Villar

IT is not a bad idea if we allow local government units (LGUs) to compete against each other in the vaccination race. The main objective here is to inoculate as many Filipinos as we can toward the ultimate goal of attaining herd immunity.

Our LGUs, especially those in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, have the financial resources to fund their own respective vaccination drive. Governors and mayors earlier have pledged to procure as many vaccines as possible for their constituents, and many, in fact, have signed deals to purchase the doses.

The competition, in my opinion, can serve as the yardstick in assessing the performance of our local government officials during this time of pandemic. I’m sure no mayor or governor would want to have a record of having the lowest vaccination rate in his town or province, especially now that more doses are being made available to the Philippines.

There is also no reason for the Philippines to lag behind in the vaccination drive, unlike before when our authorities groped in the dark over the procurement of the vaccines. The increasing availability of several vaccines and the aggressive posture of the private sector to purchase the doses for their own employees have increased the nation’s inoculation rate. The Philippines as of Friday last week has already administered 4.7 million doses to the population.

I’m sure there are many ways of inspiring our LGUs to increase the pace of their vaccination. But money will not be a problem for these LGUs. Makati City, the richest city in the National Capital Region, for one, has earmarked P1 billion for this year in procuring vaccines and administering the jabs to residents for free.

Quezon City, the biggest city in Metro Manila and the most populous, has also allocated P1 billion for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines in 2021, while Pasig has budgeted P300 million.

Our local executives in the National Capital Region and nearby provinces will be doing the country a great favor if they help speed up the inoculation process. As the epicenter of the pandemic and the hub of economic activities, Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, or the so-called NCR Plus, can hasten the establishment of a herd immunity and the full re-opening of the economy.

Meanwhile, we can expect looser quarantine restrictions in the NCR Plus region in June amid the declining number of Covid-19 cases. The OCTA Research team is seeing a decline in Covid-19 cases in Metro Manila, with more than 1,000 cases per day and the reproduction number down to 0.53 as of last week. The average number of new Covid-19 infections in Metro Manila dropped 23 percent to 1,023 in the past week, with an average daily attack rate of 7.41.

The group has also noted that the condition in the capital region improved from being a high-risk to moderate-risk area for Covid-19. The positivity rate in Metro Manila has fallen to 10 percent from May 19 to 25, although slightly higher than the target of less than 5 percent.

With the country’s declining infection rate, our economic prospects are starting to brighten up. The fight against the virus is far from over but I believe the economy is on the mend judging from recent economic figures.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III is similarly optimistic about the economy. He expects it to gather steam in the second quarter with lower infections and the mass vaccination program against Covid-19.

The finance chief based his optimism on the assumption that foreign drug manufacturers would deliver the volume of vaccines they committed. If the vaccine pledges pushed through, the Duterte administration would have enough doses to inoculate 70 million Filipino adults, plus about 15 million teenagers once the anti-Covid-19 shot for them is approved by our country’s Food and Drug Administration.

I would say that the Philippines has persevered despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. Our economic managers were able to right the ship 15 months into the pandemic.

S&P Global Ratings itself has noted the inherent strength of the Philippine economy. It affirmed last week the Philippines’s investment-grade “BBB+” sovereign credit rating, with a stable outlook, citing “good economic recovery prospects once the Covid-19 pandemic is contained.”

We’re not yet near the pre-pandemic growth rate levels, but our economic recovery should start revving up soon, or as early as this second quarter. We have safely stayed the course amid these most challenging times.

For comments, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.mannyvillar.com.ph.

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