Give LGUs free hand to fight Covid-19 - Escudero

By Mar S. Arguelles


To address the seemingly slow pace implementation of the Covid-19 vaccination program in various provinces, towns, and cities, local government units (LGUs) should be given free hand to introduce initiatives in combating the pandemic within their jurisdiction, according to Sorsogon Gov. Francis “Chiz” Escudero.


Escudero said with the coronavirus pandemic reaching its second year, it’s time for the national government to pass the baton to the LGUs and allow the latter to deal with the public health crisis by putting in place locally-initiated measures for faster rollout of Covid-19 response.


Escudero, in a press statement recently, said LGUs should be given a free hand to introduce initiatives in combating the Covid-19 pandemic that is more appropriate and attuned to the needs of their constituencies within their jurisdiction.


“One of the solutions, in order to address this pandemic, is to allow the LGUS to craft its own Covid response program. They have a better grasp of the situation on the ground compared to the government agencies based in Manila,” Escudero explained.


“I have seen many best practices in so many LGUs and by far they are more efficient and successful compared to what the national government is imposing on us. The LGUs know the needs and what is best for their localities,” added Escudero.


He said LGUs that are capable of buying their own vaccines should be allowed to do so to speed up the nationwide vaccination rollout so the country can achieve its target for herd immunity at the soonest possible time.


“Our province could not afford to do that, but I know that there are many provinces that are capable and able to purchase their own vaccines. Bakit naman hindi sila payagan kung may kakayahan naman?” he pointed out, as he cited delays and distribution issues in farming out vaccine supplies from Metro Manila to the provinces.


The national government should have allowed more participation from the private sector for better and more organized procurement and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.


“It took the government some time to see the advantage of bringing in the private sector in the procurement. Imagine these private companies were willing to spend their own resources and even donate 50 percent of the vaccines. Personally, I think the private sector would have been more efficient in terms of procuring and even rolling out the vaccines,” the veteran legislator said.


Because of the slow implementation of the vaccination program in almost all regions, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) might issue a directive asking local governments to explain why there have been delays in submitting their vaccination data despite the vaccination rollout delivered to them.


According to the DILG database, some 30 percent of LGUs have not been updating their records regularly as required by the agency.


Records of the National Task Force (NTF) on Covid-19 showed that that among the 17 regions in the country, Bicol is on the 16th place or the second lowest rate of fully vaccinated population at 11.7 percent. Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM)


is on the bottom of the list with only 9.8 percent of its population already fully vaccinated.


The top five Regions with a large number of vaccinated populations include the National Capital Region (NCR), followed by Calabarzon, CAR, Davao, Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao.


Escudero said the Philippines is the only country in the world with the hardest and longest lockdown since last year, imposing varying degrees of community quarantine restrictions across the country in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19.