President Rodrigo Duterte supported the request of some seafarer groups – and even an appeal by Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello III – to prioritize seafarers when it comes to vaccines made in the US or the UK.
This is after Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque explained that it is necessary as a requirement in the work of seafarers.
“Dahil sa Europa, hindi sila pasasakayin, hindi sila pababalikin kung wala sila Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson o AstraZeneca, kung puwede sila puwede mapayagan na kumuha ng Western brands. Tutol po ito sa polisiya na walang pilian, pero karamihan po ng mga barko eh nagre-require ng ganitong Western brands,” said Roque.
(Because in Europe, they won’t be boarded, they won’t be accepted if they don’t have Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, or AstraZeneca if they can be allowed to take Western brands. This is against the no choice policy, but most ships require such Western brands.)
The President agreed, at the same time saying that it cannot be considered a case of giving special treatment to seafarers.
Duterte approves giving Western brands COVID-19 vaccines to seafarers
“We are ready to vaccinate them with the Western brand. There is no violation of the equal protection of the law because kung sabihin mo lang iyong hindi nabakunahan ng Moderna o Pfizer, at nabakunahan ng Sinovac o Sinopharm, there is no distinction, and there is no clear evidence to show that itong Pfizer, Moderna are superior to the Sinovac or Sinopharm. Eh puro bakuna iyan, it is generic,” said Duterte.
Duterte ordered vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., to fix the system of how seafarers can enroll in the government vaccination program.
According to Roque, the Philippines is the second-highest supplier of seafarers in the world, after China.
Of the nearly 1.65 million seafarers worldwide, more than 460,000, or 25 percent, are Filipinos.
It is said to be higher than the government’s target of 4 million vaccinations before the end of May.