17 March 2020 – The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the largest business organization in the country, is calling on the government to allow the private sector to import and buy COVID-19 vaccines directly from accredited sources without restrictions or conditions amidst the reported surge of infections in Luzon.
PCCI President Benedicto V. Yujuico said that the government should speed up the procurement and rollout of vaccines “to ensure the safety of our workers and people, improve consumer confidence and hasten the recovery of our economy”.
PCCI pointed out that even as restrictions eased, companies continue to see sharp drops in sales mainly due to combined restrictions in mobility and fear of people to travel to buy goods or avail of services.
“We urge the government to allow the private sector to import vaccines without restrictions or conditions so we could move quickly and efficiently in vaccinating more people,” Yujuico said.
“We have to keep pace with our neighbors, which except for Indonesia, have lower infection rate than us and yet are ahead of us (including Indonesia) in implementing the vaccination program. We cannot risk being left behind again and revert to being the basket case of Asia.”
PCCI also expressed concern on the COVID-19 vaccine passports now required in many countries, which has an impact on the country whose economic growth is driven largely by remittance-fueled consumption.
“Without an early widespread roll-out of the vaccination program, many of our overseas Filipino workers who found themselves repatriated because of COVID-19, may be unable to return to their work once restrictions are lifted, and find themselves without jobs,” Yujuico stressed.
PCCI urged the National Government to consider the proposal of House Deputy Speaker Rufus B. Rodriguez to allow the private sector to buy and import vaccines for their employees and their families tax-free. This would reduce pressure from government, which has a limited budget to inoculate all, or even 70% of the population, PCCI said.
PCCI also called on the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) to accelerate its review of the applications for emergency use authorization of various pharmaceutical firms for their vaccines. (PCCI)