Bong Go: COVID-19 vaccine must be proven safe and effective prior to distribution but stresses that poor and vulnerable sectors must be prioritized

Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go emphasized the need to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccine to be used in the country is safe and effective, warning against rushing its development.

“Ang importante ay maging safe po ito (COVID-19 vaccine) para sa ating mga kababayan,” Go said during a radio interview on Friday, October 23, adding that the proper development process must be followed before using a vaccine.

“Inilatag ni Department of Health Secretary (Francisco) Duque ang timeline ng vaccine development and trial sa bansa, until March 2021 ang estimated time na matatapos ang phase 3 trial,” he said.

“Ibig sabihin, dadaan ito sa mga clinical trials. Importante po ay maging safe ito sa Pilipino,” he added.

Once a vaccine is certified safe and effective for use, the Senator said that the poor and vulnerable sectors must be prioritized so they can immediately resume their lives normally.

“Kami naman ni Pangulong (Rodrigo) Duterte, kapag mayro’n nang vaccine na available at nadeklarang safe na po ito ay uunahin namin ang mga mahihirap at ‘yung mga vulnerable sector,” he said.

Go, then, warned against rushing the production and availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, saying “Ang amin lang dito ay ‘wag tayong masyadong magmadali dahil napakaimportante po na ma-declare ito as safe.”

“Ayaw natin na mayro’n na namang another controversy na mangyayari tungkol dito sa vaccine. Importante po para sa amin ang buhay ng bawat Pilipino,” he added.

Meanwhile, Go said that there is an ongoing collaboration between multinational drug companies and Philippine authorities regarding the conduct of clinical trials and access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Nakausap ko rin po kagabi si (Food and Drug Administration Administrator) Director General Eric Domingo, mayro’n na hong mga iba’t ibang—katulad ng Sinovac—nag-a-apply dito sa Pilipinas. So, ang gagawin nyan magkakaroon ng clinical trial na po sa ating bansa at, I’m sure, marami pang iba na mag-a-apply,” he added.

Go also urged the Department of Science and Technology, the lead agency in charge of the COVID-19 clinical trials to ensure that the process are expedited but still in accordance with the applicable scientific standards.

“So antay-antay lang po tayo. Ang importante rito ay maging safe po at ongoing ang coordination natin with the World Health Organization on vaccine development and they have identified places and hospitals that will be used for the clinical trial phase 3,” he said.

“Importante rito ay pumasa po ito sa ating clinical trials,” he added.

Earlier, Go said that the government had already set aside funds for the purchase and development of the COVID-19 vaccine and is looking to secure additional funding to expand the immunization program.

“Mayroon pong nakalaan na budget para pambili ng vaccine. Naghahanap ang ating finance managers ng pera kung sakaling kulang pa po,” said Go before.

Until then, the Senator encouraged the public to continue adhering to the health and safety protocols, such as wearing masks and face shields, observing social distancing and frequent hand washing, among others, to prevent the further spread of the virus.

“Ako’y natutuwa na ang Pilipino ay disiplinado po at sumusunod sa paalaala ng gobyerno. Just cooperate with the government. Para po ito sa inyo. Lahat po ng aming ginagawa ay para sa inyo po,” he said urging Filipinos to continue adhering to health protocols.

Pulong distributes food packs to flashflood-affected families

DAVAO CITY – First Congressional District Representative Paolo Duterte, through his trusted staff, distributed 800 food packs to flashflood victims in two barangays here on Thursday, October 15.

Rep. Duterte’s staff distributed the 800 food packs, which contains kilos of rice and canned goods, at Purok 40 and Purok 41 in Barangay Ulas, and Barangay Catalunan Pequeño, of the first district.

The above-mentioned areas were among the places in the city affected by the moderate to heavy rain on Wednesday due to the Tropical Depression Ofel, which made its landfall in the country 5 times.

Rep. Duterte’s staff said that each food pack will serve a family. The staff also echoed the young congressman’s call for the people to stay cautious and observe anti-Covid-19 measures, as well.

Bong Go urges DA to prioritize agricultural training and promote agri-preneurship to speed up economic recovery and boost rural development

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go expressed his support for the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Agriculture as he commended the agency for its swift response to the needs of Filipino farmers and fisherfolk during the pandemic.

“I am here to manifest my full support to the budget of the Department of Agriculture, headed by Secretary William Dar, its banner programs and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources,” Go said during his manifestation at a public hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Finance on Friday, October 16.

Go explained his support for the agriculture budget because its thrust, priorities, and strategies support the vision of “a food secure and resilient Philippines with prosperous farmers and fisherfolk”.

“I trust the department to stay true to its vision and continue their efforts in providing reprieve to our less fortunate farmers and fisherfolk and ensure production, availability, accessibility and affordability, price stability, sustainability, and food safety,” he added.

Go, then, lauded the swift response of the Department of Agriculture to address the dismal effects of the ongoing pandemic.

“The Department provided financial subsidy to more than 530,000 rice farmers. They have released and continue to release zero-interest loans to marginalized small farmers and fisherfolk, and agri-based micro and small enterprises,” Go cited.

“In addition, they have extended support services, education, training, and agricultural equipment and facilities to our poverty-stricken farmers and fisherfolk. The help they provided, in turn, safeguarded our nation’s food security which is vital for each and everyone’s sustenance,” he added.

Earlier, Go renewed his call for the DA to intensify its support for the agricultural sector in providing livelihood, food security, and in boosting economic activities in the countryside.

“Lalo na sa panahon ngayon na apektado ng krisis ang ating ekonomiya, ‘back to basics’ po tayo. Nakita natin ngayon kung gaano kahalaga ang agrikultura sa ating bansa at sa ating kabuhayan,” Go said.

“Mabilis pong maibabalik ang sigla ng ating ekonomiya kung palalakasin natin ang sektor ng agrikultura sa ating mga probinsya,” he added.

He also called for the DA to complement the BP2 program in revitalizing the country’s agricultural sector as many Filipinos expressed willingness to participate in the program and be reintegrated in the rural communities. He emphasized that the government must provide agricultural training and strengthen programs promoting agri-preneurship.

“Marami pong nawalan ng trabaho at kabuhayan dahil sa krisis. Kung uuwi po sila sa kanilang probinsya, bigyan po dapat sila ng oportunidad pang-livelihood na akma sa kanilang lugar at karamihan po ng ating probinsya ay agriculture-driven ang lokal na ekonomiya,” Go explained.

“Magiging primary source po ng kabuhayan ang agrikultura ng mga magbabalik probinsya kung kaya’t dapat mas palakasin ang mga programang pwedeng magturo at sumuporta sa mga nais magsaka, mangisda, at iba pang kabuhayang pang-agrikultura,” he added.

During the hearing, Go also mentioned that the passage of Bayanihan 2 has also empowered the Department to further its efforts in assisting our farmers and fisherfolk during these trying times.

“The Bayanihan 2 directed the Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines to prioritize agri-fishery businesses, agriculture cooperatives, farmers, fisherfolk and other agricultural workers in the provision of low interest and flexible loans,” he said.

“In addition, appropriations and standby fund of 24 billion pesos was allocated to assist our agricultural sector,” he added.

Go, then, called on the department to safeguard and spend this appropriation judiciously.

“Kailangan unahin po natin ang pinakamahihirap na magsasaka. ‘Wag po natin silang hayaang magutom. Bigyan po natin sila ng lahat ng kailangan nila para makabangon muli,” he asked of DA.

“Ang mga magsasaka at mga mangingisda po natin ay maituturing rin na mga importanteng frontliners ng ating bansa. Kung wala po sila, wala po tayong makakain sa araw-araw. Kung kaya’t nakikiusap po ako sa inyo na gamitin ang budget ng maayos up to the last centavo,” he emphasized.

During the deliberations, Go challenged DA Secretary William Dar to go after agricultural smugglers and help eradicate systemic corruption in government.

“Ubusin mo ‘yan,” Go urged. “Patunayan mo. With one year and (eight) months na lang ang natitira sa termino ng Presidente (Rodrigo Duterte),” he added.

Dar responded affirmatively, but said that a whole-of-government approach is also required to resolve the issue on agricultural smuggling.

Ending his manifestation, Go assured the country’s farmers and fisherfolk that his office is always open to listen to their concerns.

“Para sa ating mga magsasaka at mangingisda, bukas po ang aking opisina para pakinggan kayo,” Go said.

“Kung mayroon po kayong nakikitang anomalya, ako mismo ang magko-call out sa mga bulok na opisyal na inuuna ang kanilang pansariling interes bago ang interes ng bayan at ng Pilipino,” he ended.

BFP presents new fire trucks and fire protection equipment as Bong Go supports modernization of the fire protection bureau

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go on Thursday, October 15, attended the ceremonial turnover at the Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City of the recently procured equipment of the Bureau of Fire Protection, including 84 units of 1,000 gallons capacity fire trucks, five units of aerial ladder, and three units of rescue trucks to be distributed by BFP to various local government units around the country.

“All over the country po ito ipapamahagi. Natutuwa po ako dahil ang gusto naman po natin ay mabigyan ng sapat na kagamitan laban sa sunog ang mga iba’t ibang lugar — hopefully sa lahat ng sulok po ng bansa ay handa po tayo,” Go said.

“Kasi marami pong munisipyo na talagang wala pong pondo na pambili ng ganitong mga kagamitan. Talagang magagamit nila ito,” Go added.

He said that BFP must continue its efforts to modernize and enhance their ranks by acquiring more fire trucks and equipment to be given especially in remote areas in the country.

“Hopefully, patuloy pa ang pag-acquire nila ng mga panibagong equipment. Kinausap ko rin po si Dir. Embang na ikonsidera rin nila ‘yung mga maliliit na fire trucks na puwedeng pumasok sa mga liblib o masisikip na lugar kasi doon po madalas nagkakasunog,” Go said, referring to BFP Chief Jose Embang, Jr.

Last February 11, 2020, the Senator joined President Rodrigo Duterte when they witnessed the turnover of 74 fire trucks. The Senator also continues to provide aid to fire victims in different parts of the country.

“Mahirap po mawalan ng bahay at kagamitan dahil sa sunog at iba pang sakuna. Kaya po patuloy akong nagbibigay ng tulong sa mga biktima at nag-iiwan ng ngiti sa oras ng kanilang pagdadalamhati,” Go said.

“Bilang isang Senador at public servant, patuloy po akong magseserbisyo, lalo na sa mga mahihirap at nangangailangan na apektado ng krisis tulad ng sunog. Kasabay nito ay pagsisikapan ko bilang mambabatas na mas palakasin pa ang ating fire prevention and protection measures,” he added.

As Vice-Chair of the Senate Committee on Peace and Order and as a main advocate of fire protection modernization initiatives, one of Go’s priority bills is Senate Bill 204 which is now consolidated under Committee Report No. 111, otherwise known as BFP Modernization Act of 2020.

The measure is currently undergoing the period of interpellation in the Senate. The bill aims to ensure the hiring of more personnel, acquisition of modern fire equipment, and the conduct of trainings for firefighters of the BFP.

The bill will also empower local communities in preventing fire incidents by mandating the BFP to conduct monthly fire prevention campaigns and information drives in all LGUs, especially in vulnerable areas.

Go also shared that the President fully supports the modernization efforts of the BFP. “Ang sabi ng Pangulo, sabihin mo sa kanila huwag na nila ako unahin, ‘yung kagamitan ng mga sundalo at kapulisan at bumbero ang unahin natin,” he shared.

During the event, Go expressed his and Duterte’s full support for the country’s fire personnel, citing the government’s recent effort to increase the salaries and promote the welfare of the military and uniformed personnel.

“Full support po kami sa inyo. Unang-una po, ‘yung pangako niya pagkaupo pa lang niya bilang Pangulo, tinupad niya agad ang pangako niya,” Go said, referring to the increase in salaries provided to uniformed personnel, including firefighters.

Go also said that he supports the President’s position of arming BFP personnel so they can help in the fight against criminality.

“We are currently studying this added measure of arming firefighters. Nabanggit na rin ito ng Pangulo. Makakatulong din sila sa paglaban ng kriminalidad at para rin maproteksyunan ang kanilang mga sarili. Pati sa kampanya laban sa droga, makakatulong din sila,” said Go.

In addition to fire trucks and other modern equipment, Go also said that he is coordinating with BFP officials, government finance managers and concerned agencies on how to also provide additional ambulance units to the BFP.

He said that providing ambulances will make BFP more responsive in fulfilling their mandates and will be useful, especially in times of national emergencies given that their personnel are well-trained frontliners.

“Kapag mayroon nang vaccine kontra COVID-19, pwede pong tumulong ang BFP para mabakunahan ang mga tao. Nagtutulungan po lahat ng ating uniformed personnel, mula military, pulis, bumbero, at iba pa para maprotektahan ang kapakanan ng ating mga kababayan,” Go explained.

Go thanked officials for their efforts to modernize the BFP and for their continuing service, especially during the pandemic, specifically Department of the Interior and Local Government officials led by Secretary Eduardo Año and BFP officials led by Embang, Jr.

Go also acknowledged local officials and district representatives who were present, including Congressman Onyx Crisologo of the 1st District of Quezon City, Congresswoman Angel Amante-Matba of the 2nd District of Agusan del Norte, Mayor Marcy Teodoro of Marikina City, and Mayor Judy Amante of Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte and thanked them for their support to the national government in the bayanihan efforts to overcome the pandemic.

“Dahil mahirap ang panahon ngayon, we have to adjust to the new normal pero konting tiis lang po. Alam kong hirap po kayo. Kami ni Pangulong Duterte, hindi kami nawawalan ng pag-asa, magtulungan lang po tayo. Sino pa ba ang magtutulungan kundi tayong kapwa Pilipino,” he ended.

Israeli flag carrier plane lands in the Philippines for the first time in seven years

The El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. with Flight No. LY 063 landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) this morning, 14 October 2020, at 6:25 AM. Ambassador Rafael Harpaz said that this historic flight symbolizes the good relations between Israel and the Philippines.

 

It was in November 2013 when two Israeli planes carrying humanitarian aid first touched the Philippine soil via Cebu airport to assist the Philippines in wake of Typhoon Yolanda. It was one of the biggest relief operations that Israel has ever conducted. The Israeli delegation of doctors, nurses, and paramedics and Israeli Foreign Ministry and Defense personnel provided a field hospital and helped repair damaged infrastructures such as schools and water facilities particularly in Bogo, Cebu.

 

Onboard the El Al plane were 250 Filipino students from different agriculture universities and colleges in the Philippines who completed their 11-month on-the-job training course of combined academic learning and practical work in the latest farming techniques and technologies in Israel. The program offered the students the opportunity to study at specialized agricultural academic centers and work in modern farms throughout Israel. Approximately 5,000 Filipino students already participated in this Agro Studies program. Another batch of flight from Israel to the Philippines is scheduled later on month.

 

The Embassy looks forward that after the COVID-19 pandemic and through the existing visa-free agreement, more Filipino tourists will come to visit Israel and vice versa; and hopefully, the direct flight services between the two countries will be implemented soon.