President Rodrigo Duterte announced Friday that he ordered the military to implement the government's free COVID-19 immunization program for 20 million poorest Filipinos, subject to availability of the vaccine.
Duterte made the announcement in a taped briefing with Inter-Agency Task Force officials wherein he assured the public that vaccines against COVID-19 will be made available by China to the Philippines by December this year.
“Ang distribution ng vaccine, [sa] military lang. Implementing arm ang military,” Duterte said.
In the same briefing, the President said that the police and military will be guaranteed vaccines against COVID-19 because of their crucial role in his administration.
“Iyong police at military, is the backbone of my administration,” Duterte said.
Majority of the Duterte administration's Cabinet members are retired military officials. Likewise, the National Task Force Against COVID-19 is headed by Secretary Carlito Galvez, the former chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
In response, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Major General Edgard Arevalo said AFP chief General Felimon Santos Jr. has directed his staff to discuss and prepare for their new task.
"Ikinatutuwa po natin ang malaking tiwala sa AFP ng ating Commander-in-Chief," Arevalo said in a press statement.
"Bagaman at kababanggit pa lang ng Pangulo ang tungkol sa bagay na 'yan, kaagad pong inatasan ng ating AFP Chief of Staff General Felimon Santos, Jr. ang kanyang mga staff upang pagpaplanuhan at paghandaan 'yan before December kung kailan pinaniniwalaan na magkakaroon na ng vaccine para sa COVID-19," he added.
Earlier, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that at least 20 million Filipinos will be provided with COVID-19 vaccine for free, adding that three pharmaceutical companies from China, one from Great Britain, and one from the US were already in their advanced stage of development.
Dominguez said the vaccines will be purchased through Philippine International Trading Corporation under the Department of Trade and Industry which will turn over the vaccine to the Department of Health.
“Once this [purchase] is made, itu-turn over sa DOH para magamit nila sa poorest of the poor, iyong lowest 20 million [income earners] in the country,” Dominguez said.
There are over 89, 000 COVID-19 cases, but only over 22,000 of those are active COVID-19 cases. This is largely due to the over 38,000 recoveries recorded in a single day per the Department of Health records, a surge due to the reclassification of mild and asymptomatic cases as recovered after 14 days. —with a report from Anna Felicia Bajo/LBG, GMA News