Bong Go supports efforts to locally manufacture vaccines and establish virology institute

To eventually achieve ‘vaccine self-reliant PH’, preparations must start now

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go underscored the importance of learning from the experiences brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and being more proactive in preparing for other similar crises in the future. In particular, Go emphasized that in order to address the country’s limited vaccine supply and heavy reliance on global sources, preparations and initiatives to locally manufacture vaccines in the Philippines must start now.

Go earlier lauded the ongoing efforts of the national government, in coordination with the private sector, to boost the Philippines’ capabilities to locally manufacture and eventually develop its own vaccines.

In an interview on Saturday, April 17, Go said that President Rodrigo Duterte himself has instructed concerned public officials to expedite government processes for pharmaceutical companies seeking to locally manufacture COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

“Sinabihan niya (Duterte), si (Department of Trade and Industry) Secretary Mon Lopez na kung sakaling may mag-apply na manufacturing company ay tulungan po,” said Go.

“Ang sabi (ng Pangulo), ang ‘bibliya’ (ng gobyerno) dito ay huwag pahirapan, kundi tulungan kaagad ang mga nais tumulong para makapaglagay ng sarili nating manufacturing po ng bakuna,” he added.

Go earlier stressed the need to accelerate arrangements for public-private partnerships in manufacturing vaccines locally, with the DTI at the helm. He urged concerned agencies to support these initiatives and help expedite the setting-up process, but also asked the companies to ensure all requirements are met in accordance with existing laws and regulations.

As the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines remains limited, Go also confirmed that Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a phone call on April 13, both stressed the importance of ramping up vaccine production and the need to mobilize Russian vaccines to as many countries as possible.

“Isa po sa ginagawa ng gobyerno, nakikiusap po tayo sa ibang bansa. Ito po ang panahon na kailangan nating makipagtulungan at makiusap sa ibang bansa dahil sila po ang merong supply ng bakuna. Sila po ang merong mga manufacturing company,” said Go.

He added that the government is expecting to receive 500,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccines from Russia soon.

“So, ang sinabi naman po ni Russian President Putin, tutulong sila. Bagama’t wala pong pinangakong numero o kailan, inaasahan po natin na darating ang Sputnik V vaccine mula sa Russia ngayong buwan o sa susunod… na 500,000 doses,” Go mentioned.

“Kasi po initially, ang ibinigay lang nila ay 100,000. Pinakiusapan po sila ng gobyerno na gawing 500,000. I think may unang darating na 20,000 na parang pilot run… kasi pag-aaralan pa ang temperature (for storage) na kailangan. Napakalaking tulong na po ito, pandagdag na sa tuluy-tuloy na pagbabakuna sa ating bansa,” he added.

Meanwhile, Go said that in the long-term, the Department of Science and Technology is presently preparing for the establishment of a virology institute in the Philippines, which will eventually enable the country to develop its own vaccines and other related drugs against diseases.

“Sa ngayon po ay pinag-aaralan ng DOST ‘yan. ‘Yan po ang magandang balita kasi maski si Pangulong Duterte, pabor sa vaccine institute. It should be our long-term goal,” explained Go.

The Senator said that these efforts are intended to avoid similar situations where poorer nations are left with fewer supplies of vaccines as compared to richer and more developed countries that have early on invested in health sciences and medical research.

“Kakasabi lang ng WHO (World Health Organization) na talagang inequitable po ang distribution ng bakuna, so dapat po maghanda tayo. Ang ating gobyerno has allocated PhP50 million in the GAA (General Appropriations Act) for the detailed engineering design para sa institute. It is planned to be built in Tarlac,” he shared.

Citing the unpredictable nature of pandemics, Go highlighted the importance of a more proactive approach to ensure that the country is well-prepared should future health crises occur.

“Hindi natin alam kung kailan darating itong panibagong pandemya sa buhay natin. Huwag na po yung mabibigla nanaman tayo dahil hindi tayo naging handa. Mas mabuting proactive na tayo at pag-aralan natin ang lahat ng puwede nating gawin, dahil talagang mahirap matamaan po nitong pandemyang ganito,” he said.

Bong Go lauds ongoing efforts to locally manufacture and develop vaccines in the Phl

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go lauded the ongoing efforts of the national government, in coordination with the private sector, to boost the Philippines’ capabilities to locally manufacture and eventually develop its own vaccines. He said that this will allow the country to eventually veer away from reliance on the international market for vaccines and other medicines.

“Napakalaki po ng potensyal ng ating bansa na mag-produce ng sarili nating mga gamot at bakuna laban sa samu’t saring mga sakit. Napapanahon na po upang pag-aralan natin kung papaano tayo magiging self-reliant pagdating sa aspetong ito,” reiterated Go.

According to Go, who also serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, this initiative will not only help boost local vaccine supply, but can also help increase production of vaccines in the world market in the future.

In line with this, Go welcomed the active participation and show of interest of various pharmaceutical companies in locally manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines.

Late in March, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said that the Board of Investments has been in discussion with companies which are keen on producing COVID-19 vaccines locally.

During a televised meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, April 15, Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña also disclosed that the government is in talks with potential local vaccine manufacturers in a presentation on “Vaccine Self-Reliant Philippines”.

During the said meeting, the DTI also presented its ongoing efforts to help attain vaccine self-reliance by supporting local manufacturing initiatives.

“Bagama’t mid- to long-term solution ito sa ating hangarin na magkaroon ng sapat na supply ng ligtas at epektibong bakuna sa bansa, maging bukas ang ating isipan at suportahan natin ang mga ganitong inisyatibo,” Go said.

“Hindi natin alam kung ano pa ang mga idudulot na problema ng COVID-19 sa susunod na mga buwan. Hindi rin natin alam ano pang pandemya ang haharapin natin sa susunod na mga taon. Mas mabuting maging proactive at handa tayo,” he emphasized further.

Go also stressed the need to accelerate arrangements for public-private partnerships in manufacturing vaccines locally, with the DTI at the helm. He urged concerned agencies to support these initiatives and help expedite the setting-up process, but also asked the companies to ensure all requirements are met in accordance with existing laws and regulations.

“Mas magiging matagumpay ito kung magtutulungan ang gobyerno at ang pribadong sektor. We need to always adopt a whole-of nation approach to overcome these challenges,” he said.

“Hindi ito laban ng gobyerno lamang, laban ito ng buong sambayanang Pilipino at ng buong mundo. Kaya nga po bayanihan ang isinisigaw natin noong simula palang. Bigyan natin ng oportunidad ang lahat na tumulong,” he added.

Meanwhile, Go said that the establishment of a virology institute, which will eventually enable the country to develop its own vaccines and other related drugs against diseases, such as COVID-19, should be the long-term goal.

“It is for this reason that I recently echoed President Duterte’s call to establish a virology institute that will capacitate the country to conduct scientific research initiatives on preventing and treating various viruses and diseases,” he said.

Go said that this initiative is intended to avoid a repetition of the present situation where poorer nations are left with fewer supplies of vaccines as compared to richer and more developed countries that have early on invested in health sciences and medical research.

Acting as a venue for both local and international scientists to collaborate on studying viruses of agricultural, industrial, clinical, and environmental importance, Go mentioned that the proposed institute will serve as the premier research and development institute in the field of virology in the country. It will encompass all areas in viruses and viral diseases in humans, plants, and animals.

The government has already allocated an amount of PhP50 million in the 2021 General Appropriations Act for the detailed engineering design of the virology institute which is planned to be built in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac. The institute project is one of the projects included in the government’s Build! Build! Build! infrastructure program.

Measures have also been introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to institutionalize the proposed virology research.

SBG calls on gov’t for more Covid-19 isolation tents and ICU beds

As chair of the Senate Committee on Health, I appeal to concerned agencies, with the help of the private sector, to expedite the construction and expansion of more modular facilities and tents equipped with COVID-19 isolation and ICU beds to cater particularly to those with severe conditions.

I laud the continuing efforts of the government to provide more isolation facilities for people with mild and moderate COVID-19 cases; however, the need for more facilities that can handle severe and critical conditions must also be considered.

In order to maximize our resources, I urge the government to identify locations where we can install these modular facilities and tents equipped with ICU beds, or existing structures that can be transformed into temporary health facilities to accommodate severe COVID-19 cases.

We need to double our efforts in order to reduce further the waiting time for patients needing urgent treatment or admission, provide faster medical transport and patient pick-up, and facilitate much improved use of critical care services in our health facilities.

Nakakaawa po ‘yung mga kababayan nating naghihingalo na tapos wala pang mahanap na ospital. Buhay po ang nakasalalay sa bawat minutong pag-aantay makakuha lang ng ospital, kama, at doktor para maalagaan sila.

Huwag nating hintayin na nag-aagaw buhay na sa labas ng mga ospital ang ating mga kababayang may sakit. Gawin natin ang lahat ng ating makakaya para sagipin at gamutin sila.

Moreover, we also need to augment our medical frontliners, particularly in critical areas where a significant number of them have been overburdened or, worse, also infected with COVID-19.

I laud the bayanihan efforts of nurses in the Visayas who expressed willingness to be deployed to the ‘NCR Plus’ areas. Patunay lamang po ito na sa kabila ng pandemya, malakas pa rin ang diwa ng bayanihan sa bansa.

I appeal to our health workers in other parts of the country with lower COVID-19 cases to also be ready to extend help in critical areas. In these trying times, we need a whole-of-nation approach to fully overcome this pandemic.

Bawat isa sa atin ay may tungkulin sa kapwa, sa ating komunidad, at sa ating bayan. Lahat tayo ay dapat maging bahagi ng solusyon. Laging tandaan na ang ating kooperasyon, bayanihan, at malasakit sa kapwa ay makapagliligtas ng buhay ng kapwa nating Pilipino!

Bong Go welcomes PRRD’s approval of Supplemental Amelioration Program

Urges agencies and LGUs to ensure this benefits those who need gov’t aid the most

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for heeding his earlier appeal to provide additional assistance to poor Filipinos through an expanded Supplemental Amelioration Program as this is a welcomed step towards aiding our needy kababayans.

This comes after the reimposition of the enhanced community quarantine in the National Capital Region Plus bubble due to the rapidly rising cases of new COVID-19 infections in the area.

Go thanked Duterte for responding affirmatively to his request to help the poor tide over the new lockdown, saying, “Nagpapasalamat ako kay Pangulong Duterte sa kanyang pagtugon sa ating panawagan na magbigay ng agarang ayuda para sa mga mahihirap na apektado ng ECQ sa NCR, Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite at Laguna.”

“Nagpapasalamat rin ako kila Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez at Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, sa kanilang patuloy na pagmamalasakit at palaging pagdinig sa hinaing ng taumbayan,” Go said.

The Senator said that Duterte’s decision is a testament to the President’s compassion and willingness to listen to the concerns of his people.

“Dahil dito, higit kumulang 22.9 milyong mahihirap na katao na bumubuo ng 80 porsyento ng populasyon ng NCR at mga probinsya ng Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite at Laguna na naka-ECQ ngayon ang mabibigyan ng ayuda,” Go said.

During the President’s weekly Talk to the People address on Monday night, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said that an estimated 22.9 million low income individuals in NCR, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal are set to benefit from the newly approved amelioration assistance.

Each individual belonging to the 80% low-income population of the affected area will be provided with PhP1,000 worth of assistance, with a maximum of PhP4,000 per family.

The PhP22.9-billion funding requirement is chargeable against the available funds under Republic Act No. 11494, also known as the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.

“Habang limitado ang galaw ng mga tao para maiwasan ang pagkalat ng sakit, limitado rin ang kita at pagkain ng kanilang pamilya. Huwag na nating hayaan na madagdagan pa ang bilang ng nagugutom,” he said.

After the approval of the President, Go urged implementing agencies to fast-track the distribution of the assistance with the help of local government units to ensure that those who need government aid the most benefit from this program.

“Aprubado na ito ng Pangulo kung kaya’t dapat na bilisan na natin ang pagbigay ng ayuda para makarating agad ang tulong ng gobyerno sa mga dapat makatanggap nito,” asked Go.

“Sa tulong din ng mga LGUs, dapat mailatag na ang proseso kung paano ito maipapamahagi sa bawat kwalipikadong indibidwal sa paraang maayos, mabilis, at walang bahid ng pulitika o korapsyon,” he added.

He also asked the public to continue to cooperate with authorities, remain vigilant, and strictly follow health protocols to prevent the further spread of the virus.

“Sa mga kapwa kong Pilipino, konting tiis lang po. Ginagawa ng gobyerno ang lahat para mapagaan ang hirap na pinapasan ng buong sambayanan,” Go urged.

“Magbayanihan po tayo para malampasan ang mga pagsubok na ito,” he concluded.

In his appeal for assistance for poor Filipinos amid the stricter quarantine restrictions in critical areas particularly in NCR and neighboring provinces, Go asked the government to also address hunger and poverty while Filipinos are forced to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Gawin natin ang lahat sa abot ng ating makakaya na makapag-abot ng tulong sa lahat ng nangangailangan para walang magutom. Habang pinipilit natin silang manatili sa kanilang mga pamamahay, siguraduhin din dapat natin na mayroong laman ang kanilang tiyan at may tulong tayong maiaabot sa kanila,” he said.

“Kung anumang kabutihan na pwede natin gawin ay gawin na natin ngayon. Huwag po natin ipagkait sa mga kababayan natin ang anumang tulong na pwede natin maibigay sa kanila. Umaksyon na tayo agad,” he ended.

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One million gov’t-procured jabs to arrive before end of March

Senator Bong Go emphasizes that gov’t must strictly implement vaccine rollout in accordance to the identified priority list

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go shared on Wednesday, March 24, that the one million CoronaVac jabs procured by the government from Sinovac are expected to arrive on Monday, March 29, as he stressed the importance of vaccination towards the country’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hopefully, the first procurement of the Philippine government will arrive on the 29th of March and I heard it will be received by the President,” Go said during the turnover ceremony for the second batch of 400,000 CoronaVac vaccines donated by the Chinese government to the country held at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

According to vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr., in addition to the first 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by China and the additional donation of 400,000 doses received today, one million more doses purchased by our government are expected to arrive soon from China.

Go earlier assured that there is no delay in the vaccine rollout as there will be more deliveries of vaccines from other sources by middle of this year, pursuant to our National Vaccine Roadmap.

“We are simply complying with the necessary processes, aligned with the agreed schedule, as negotiated with our international partners,” he previously said.

The arrival of the second batch of Sinovac vaccines donated by China, according to Go, is another major milestone in the government’s national vaccination program.

“This is another major milestone for us, especially since the supply of vaccine is very limited and we have to inoculate 1.7 million frontliners and we have to meet our target for this year in order to attain herd immunity,” Go said.

Go, then, emphasized that health workers need to be prioritized for the vaccines to “arm” and protect them against the virus while doing their job of containing the pandemic and protecting Filipinos’ health.

“Importante ‘yung mga health workers natin. Madami po akong nababalitaan na mayroong mga nauuna. Dapat muna nating protektahan ang ating mga health workers. We should arm them since sila po ang sinasabak natin dito sa giyerang ito, dapat armasan po natin ang ating mga health workers (sa pamamagitan ng bakuna),” Go said.

“Alam niyo mahirap magkasakit, hindi basta-basta ‘yung trabaho ng mga health workers natin. Ika nga sa giyera, sa military, isinabak natin sila sa giyera. Dapat armasan natin sila nang husto at ito po ‘yung bakuna. So sila ang dapat po mauna,” he added.

Go said that once 1.7 million health workers throughout the country have been vaccinated, the poor and vulnerable sectors, such as senior citizens and individuals with comorbidities, will be inoculated next to protect them from severe COVID-19 infection.

“Matapos natin (bakunahan) ‘yung 1.7 million, then susunod naman po ‘yung mga senior citizens, susunod naman po ‘yung may mga comorbidities dahil sila po ‘yung importanteng protektahan po natin,” assured Go.

Go emphasized that the vaccine rollout must be implemented in accordance to the identified priority list in order to achieve herd immunity and not to jeopardize the delivery of more vaccines.

“So, mga kapatid nating Pilipino, nakikiusap po ako sa inyo, sumunod po tayo. Kung sino po nasa priority list po ng vaccine rollout, sumunod lang po tayo. Aabot naman po tayo sa pinakababa at ang importante naman po dito ay lahat ng Pilipino (na dapat mabakunahan) ay mabakunahan at wala pong maiiwan dito sa ating vaccine rollout,” he added.

Go also asked Filipinos to strictly comply with health protocols and imposed guidelines to stop the spread of the virus and help in alleviating the burden on the public health care system. He mentioned that the country’s low case fatality rate should not be a reason for the public to become complacent about the pandemic.

“Nakikiusap po ako sa mga Pilipino, huwag ho kayong maging kumpiyansa sa ngayon. Alam niyo marami nang nagiging kumpiyansa, nagdidikit-dikit na mga tao kahit saan kami pumunta, nagkakadikit-dikit na ‘yung mga tao,” Go said.

“Hindi porket mababa ‘yung COVID-19 death rate ay maging kumpiyansa po tayo. Huwag natin hintayin na umabot pa po sa sitwasyon na bumagsak ang ating health care system, puno na ‘yung mga ospital at wala na po paglalagyan ng mga pasyente, pati quarantine facilities delikado pong magkulang ito. Diyan po lalo magkakahawaan dahil ‘yung ibang posibleng nagpositibo ay hindi na po maa-isolate,” he added.

Go urged the public to continue to cooperate with authorities, remain vigilant, and join in the bayanihan efforts against COVID-19.

“So huwag tayong maging kumpiyansa. Sa mga kapwa ko Pilipino, nakikiusap kami ni Pangulong Duterte sa inyo — disiplina po ang kailangan dito,” Go said.

“Pangalawa, huwag ho kayong matakot sa bakuna, matakot po kayo sa COVID-19. Ang tanging solusyon, ang tanging susi natin dito ay ang bakuna po para makabalik tayo sa normal nating pamumuhay,” he ended.