By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
The mayors of E.B. Magalona, Toboso and Hinoba-an towns in Negros Occidental have expressed their intention to set aside a budget for the purchase of vaccines against coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, for their constituents.
Mayor Marvin Malacon of E.B. Magalona said that he supports the stand of all the mayors in the province to authorize Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson to negotiate with the pharmaceutical company as to the availability of the vaccines for the different local government units in the province.
“The E.B. Magalona municipal government has funds for at least half of the requirement,” Malacon said.
He said that they can afford about P10 to P20 million for the purchase of the vaccines.
“We have to sacrifice some of our programs and projects because the vaccines will now be our priority,” the mayor said.
E.B. Magalona is a second class municipality located in the province’s third district.
On the other hand, Mayor Richard Jaojoco of Toboso, a third class town in the first district, is also planning to set aside a budget for the purchase of the COVID-19 vaccines.
In a separate interview, Jaojoco said that if his municipality “sacrifices” some of its programs, “it is doable.”
The mayor said he had earmarked some amount from their different projects to be “realigned” for the planned purchase of the vaccines.
A portion of the budget for the town’s annual fiesta will also be realigned, Jaojoco said.
Toboso, he said, can allot about P16 million that will be good to vaccinate 32,000 residents.
“Smaller LGUs can have a budget for the purchase of the COVID-19 vaccines. You can have shorter fiestas, you can have smaller budgets for certain programs and projects especially cultural activities. It is important that we prioritize the vaccines for our people,” Jaojoco added.
Hinoba-an Mayor Ernesto Estrao, meanwhile, said that his municipality has only small budget and Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA).
“We may need to realign budgets for certain programs and projects,” Estrao said.
He said that he estimates that Hinoba-an can set aside about P8 million to P10 million for the purchase of vaccines against COVID-19.
Earlier, the provincial government of Negros Occidental entered into a multilateral agreement with AstraZeneca for the acquisition of 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines for 50,000 individuals, with medical frontliners to be given priority for the vaccinations.
The governor expects the arrival of the vaccines in the second or third quarter of this year.
The mayors, in a Zoom meeting on Wednesday agreed that the negotiation for the purchase of vaccines should be coursed through the provincial government.
After an initial contract with AstraZeneca, Lacson said he will ask if the province can have another contract, this time for LGUs, especially the cities.
The governor also encouraged the League of Municipalities of the Philippines-Negros Occidental chapter to strongly lobby to vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez, that the national government will provide a big percentage of free COVID-19 vaccines, especially for the fourth and fifth class municipalities./DGB, WDJ