Lawmakers have promised to increase the set P2.5-billion budget of the Department of Health (DOH) for the procurement of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines as part of the proposed P4.5-trillion budget for 2021.

According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, several lawmakers expressed their concerns that the P2.5-billion allocation under President Rodrigo Duterte’s proposed 2021 budget is not enough to vaccinate 20 million poor Filipinos.

“May na-commit po under unprogrammed fund na P10 billion, and we also heard from our lawmakers that they are committed to help us get the additional P10.5 billion that we need for the 20 million people who will be prioritized for the vaccine,” Vergeire said during an online forum on Monday.

“Members of Congress gave their commitment that when it comes to vaccines, kung magkano ang kailangan, they will be supporting us,” she added.

The fund will only be given if there are resources available, however. Members of Congress have the power to decrease allocation for other budget items to give the needed fund to purchase more Covid-19 vaccines. 

Applying for loans via government banks, Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines, are the possible options if the additional budget from Congress won’t push through. 

“This [securing of a loan] is definitely an option,” Vergeire added. RJ Espartinez