Gov’t urged to tap existing spaces amid concerns vs Nayong Pilipino mega vax center

May 10, 2021 - 5:56 PM
Healthcare workers and other essential workers queue to get coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at San Juan City, Metro Manila, Philippines, March 23, 2021. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Concerned Filipinos suggested to convert existing accessible sites such as gymnasiums, arenas and parking spaces, among others into vaccination sites amid the national government’s controversial “mega vaccination” facility project.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases approved the establishment of a temporary mega-vaccination center in a reclaimed land at the Nayong Pilipino property last month.

It authorized the National Task Force against COVID-19 to sign a deal with the NPF to implement this project.

The Department of Tourism also expressed support for this vaccine center, citing the goal of saving the lives of Filipinos.

The Nayong Pilipino Foundation, however, expressed opposition against the construction of the mega vaccination facility and has yet to sign the memorandum of agreement with the NTF.

The construction of the vax hub will allegedly cut down nearly 500 trees, which make up the few, remaining forests in Metro Manila, NPF said in a statement.

The organization’s executive director Lucille Karen Malilong-Isberto also reportedly resigned from her post following a dispute with the DOT about it.

Tap existing spaces

Some concerned Filipinos suggested public spaces which are currently unused amid the pandemic as among the establishments the national government could tap instead of the NPF property.

They noted that there should be no need to remove the trees.

“Ang daming spaces na puedeng gamitin for mega vaccinations. Huwag kayong mamutol ng puno. Ano na namang gimik yan?” one Twitter user said.

“We have a lot of parking spaces, gyms, stadiums etc.,” another user wrote.

“Ang daming options not to cut trees. Stadiums, arenas, gymnasiums, parking spaces. Unless they wanted it to be something else after the vaccination,” another user commented.

So far, an arena currently being used as a vaccine center is the Fil Oil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.

Others also questioned the need for a new vaccination site in the first place.

“Mas madaling pumirma ng mga kontrata kesa mag putol ng mga puno, mag hukay ng pundasyon, mag semento, etc. Kala ko ba gustong i-expedite ang lag babakuna? Hanggang ngayon kick-vacc parin ba ang gusto?” a Reddit user said.

“What they seem to be proposing is getting a bunch of land, cutting down a bunch of trees, and creating what would basically amount to a huge drive thru vaccination area. Baka may kickback sa construction,” another user wrote.

Some online users also pointed out that vaccine centers should be accessible and near the residences of people. The tapped NPF land is near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Parañaque City.

“Why do we need a mega vaccination site? Isn’t it better to bring vaccines closer to most Filipinos by doing vaccinations on more sites like malls, barangay halls, etc.?” one user said.

“Having multiple, tiny vaccination distribution points is the best way to deploy vaccines. It limits people moving around instead of, ‘Ok! Let’s go to Nayong Pilipino!’ If each barangay has a distribution point then people don’t need to travel. They just need to walk,” another user wrote.

In its statement, the NPF Board of Trustees also stressed that it is already operating a quarantine facility operated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

It is also currently coordinating with the Department of Health and the AFP to use the property to build a “smaller vaccination facility.”

What the gov’t said

In response to NPF’s statement, NTF chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said that they are confident that Architect Felino “Jun” Palafox, who is in charge of designing the facility, has already taken into account the environment impact in his design.

“He said that he respects the environment and will make sure his firm’s design will reflect this belief,” Galvez said.

The NTF official also accused the NPF of risking the lives of thousands of Filipinos in exchange for the Ipil-Ipil trees which would be cut down for the jab hub.

“We believe it is inappropriate for the NPF to equate the fate of 500 Ipil-Ipil trees with the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of Filipinos. Moreover, the proposed site of the facility is a reclaimed piece of land and not a protected forest or a marine sanctuary,” Galvez said.

In a statement on May 7, the DOT also echoed that the construction of the vaccine center will “aid the country” to resolve the ongoing pandemic.

“It will continue to find ways to aid the country in its overall fight against the COVID-19 crisis, ever aware that the recovery of the tourism industry depends on the successful solution to the pandemic,” it said. 

The agency also assured that every factor was considered to approve this plan.

“As the facility is temporary, the DOT guarantees that decisions concerning its use took into account legal, environmental, health and public welfare considerations,” it said.

The DOT earlier said the NPF vaccine facility is eyed to accommodate 12,000 individuals a day.