Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said he will ensure Bureau of Customs (BOC) onboard officers, as government frontliners, are given priority when COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out in the Philippines.
Dominguez, speaking at BOC’s 119th founding anniversary celebration on February 9, also called on the agency to improve its services by incorporating additional digital technologies into its processes.
Â“As one of the country’s frontline workers, we will ensure that our customs boarding officers are given priority when we roll out the national vaccination program,” Dominguez said.
Frontline personnel in essential sectors, including uniformed personnel and those working in sectors identified as essential during an enhanced community quarantine, are part of group A4 in the list of priority population groups for vaccination. Other government workers are also a priority group under B2.
Dominguez said that “with the BOC’s prompt release of goods despite pandemic-induced logistical restrictions,” he is certain the bureau will be ready to facilitate the entry of COVID-19 vaccines that are arriving in the next few weeks.
The first batch of vaccines from the global vaccine sharing scheme COVAX is expected to arrive in the country this month. The initial batch consists of 117,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Vaccines from ChinaÂ’s Sinovac, meanwhile, are expected to arrive on February 23.
A full-scale simulation exercise of cold chain logistics and management of COVID-19 vaccines was held recently by government agencies, including BOC.
The simulation started from the arrival of goods at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) with pre-customs clearance in BOC-NAIA’s one-stop shop. This was followed by the transportation of vaccines and then the unloading, receiving, and inspection of vaccines in the cold chain storage facility at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.
BOC last month also created a Covax Importation Unit that will ensure the smooth and speedy processing and monitoring of imported COVID-19 vaccines.
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