Allow firms to import COVID vaccines for their workers, gov’t urged

Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Jr., president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), is appealing to the government to allow companies to import vaccines directly in order to protect their workers against COVID-19.

In a radio interview on March 18, Ortiz-Luis Jr. said that permitting the private sector to import the vaccines will not only help in business recovery, it will also reduce the cost burden of the administration in procuring and administering the vaccines.

He added that the business sector should also be allowed to procure the vaccines because workers in the industry are not at the top of the government’s immunization priority list.

Ortiz-Luis Jr. also said the private sector can be a partner of the administration as it implements the vaccination program, as he noted the sheer size of the population to be inoculated.

The ECOP official said the government’s vaccination efforts face constraints that can be overcome together with the private sector.

“Pag ang gobyerno sabihing ang private sector allowed bumili, mabilis na mabilis darating yan [vaccines] at pati yung pagbabakuna itself.” (Translation: “If the government allows the private sector to import, the vaccines will come quickly, as will the vaccination itself.”)

He also recommended providing tax-free and other incentives to encourage more businesses to vaccinate their workers.

At the same time, Ortiz-Luis Jr., also head of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT), decried talks of another lockdown and the recent imposition of curfew in Metro Manila as government measures against the COVID-19 resurgence.

“Hindi sagot dito ang lockdown, hindi na natin kaya,” he stressed, hinting of its fatal impact on the Philippine economy.

Ortiz-Luis Jr. stressed that there are other options available to address the COVID outbreak effectively.

In an interview with CNN Philippines earlier this month, Ortiz-Luis Jr. said it is important not to focus on the name of the community quarantine but on the measures to be taken to help ease restrictions and restart the economy.

He had called in particular for a review of the protocols and procedures to enable employees to go to their place of work and for companies to consider it worthwhile to continue operating and employing people.

In his March 18 interview, he said he is upset by reports of another lockdown even as COVID cases continue to rise to record highs in the Philippines. He explained that such reports undermine efforts of the business community to help small enterprises get back on their feet.

He also pointed out that the situation these days is not like what it was at the start of the pandemic, making a lockdown unnecessary. For instance, doctors are now more knowledgeable and better equipped to treat COVID patients, he added.

Ortiz-Luis Jr. said the business community is also strongly opposed to the imposition of a curfew, which he said only serves to further set back the economy. He pointed out that restaurants, for example, are only allowed a seating capacity of 50%, and a curfew could only push them toward bankruptcy and closure.

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