Government Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez Jr. on Sunday called on the board of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) to approve the construction of the planned mega vaccination site, which the foundation has been apprehensive about.
According to Galvez, the NPF Board of Trustees (NPFBT) has yet to sign a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 for the construction of the mega vaccination site at the Nayong Pilipino.
"We do not wish to downplay the position taken by the NPF board, but it must surely know the urgency of the situation of our nation is confronting," he said in a statement.
"Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic more than a year ago, everything that we do is a race against time," added Galvez.
The government plans to put up a mega vaccination site at the Nayong Pilipino site, but the NPFBT expressed apprehension given its impact on the environment as some 500 trees would have to be cut down to make space for the project.
Construction of the vaccination center will be shouldered by the ICTSI Foundation, with Felino "Jun" Palafox as the architect.
"[W]e believe it is inappropriate for the NPF to equate the fate of 500 Ipil-Ipil trees with the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of Filipinos," said Galvez.
"Moreover, the proposed site of the facility is a reclaimed piece of land and not a protected forest or a marine sanctuary," he added.
Galvez said the proposed vaccination center will be able to inoculate around 10,000 individuals daily.
The Philippines seeks to administer jabs to 500,000 individuals daily in the National Capital Region, and 200,000 individuals in other areas across the country.
"We would like to emphasize that the government deeply cares for the environment. But as the pandemic wreaks havoc on the lives of our people and our economy, we have to make the choice," said Galvez.
"'Green and open spaces will be useless if there will be no one to visit them," he added.
The NPF is a government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC) under the Department of Tourism (DOT).
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Rolumo-Puyat had earlier expressed her support for the project.
The foundation is now seeking urgent clarification from the NTF and the Department of Health (DOH) regarding the governance structure for the facility.
Among the questions being raised by the NPF is the propriety of allowing a private foundation to use government property, which was contrary to laws.
"ICSTI Foundation is part of the Razon group of companies. Legal issues are being studied to ensure full compliance with all laws, rules, and regulations," said the NPFBT.
For his part, Galvez said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea last week released a memorandum directing the NPF to "undertake any and all acts necessary to allow the DOH or the NTF to use the NPF property."
"We therefore call on the NPF to heed our call and sign the MOA as soon as possible. We can no longer afford to waste time. The future of our people and nation depends on it," he said. — DVM, GMA News