Allow private companies to import vaccines tax-free
The biggest business group in the Philippines has urged the Duterte administration to let the private sector buy COVID-19 vaccines directly without any restrictions or conditions as the country risks getting left behind by neighbors that have already vaccinated far more people. The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said the government should consider the proposal of House Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez last January that would essentially allow the private sector to buy and import vaccines for their employees and their families tax-free. “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,” said PCCI president Benedicto Yujuico in a statement on Wednesday. PCCI did not specify the conditions it was referring to. However, the private sector was previously able to buy AstraZeneca vaccines, but only under the condition that 50 percent of the doses would be donated to the Philippine government.
The statement comes as the vaccination in the Philippines remains slow, with the first vaccines to be rolled out coming from donations. PCCI said it was also worried about the implication of COVID-19 vaccine passports, which would have an impact on the Philippines, given its dependence on overseas remittances. “Without an early widespread rollout 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 said.
The PCCI said letting the private sector help would reduce the pressure from the government to inoculate 70 percent of the population. It also called on the Food and Drugs Administration to accelerate its review of the applications for emergency use authorization of various pharmaceutical firms for their vaccines.
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