Legarda Vows to Still Pass Supplemental Budget for Dengvaxia Vaccine

May 31, 2018

Senator Loren Legarda, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, has assured the public of the passage of the proposed P 1.16 Billion supplemental budget to fund the health assistance of individuals administered with the Dengvaxia vaccine. The Senator issued the statement after the Senate adjourned its session at midnight without taking up the measure.

The Senate Finance Committee filed Committee Report No. 395, after the House of Representatives transmitted House Bill No. 7449, covering the supplemental budget for fiscal year 2018 for this specific purpose. The Committee Report took into consideration the Senate Bills filed by Senators Legarda, Gordon, and Ejercito on the same matter.

“I was ready to sponsor the Committee Report last night, and had repeatedly asked my colleagues to allow me to take up the measure, particularly during the short breaks while we were taking up the Bangsamoro Basic Law, but I was told that BBL must be finished first. I respected that and waited,” said Legarda.

In her remarks in Plenary, Legarda said that “the Committee on Finance is ready. We conducted a hearing. We received the appropriations measure from the Lower House. There was a certification that it’s urgent from Malacañang. The Bureau of Treasury has certified the funds are available. I leave it to the Body to decide — do we want to allocate it now or to make them wait for another two months for the medical assistance to be given?”

However, when Proposed Senate Resolution No. 738, expressing the sense of the Senate on the matter of the removal of a Chief Justice, was being debated on after the BBL was passed, the issue of lack of quorum was called. “It was most unfortunate that because there was no more quorum, we had to adjourn,” Legarda explained.

Following the outbreak of deaths linked to the exposure of victims to the Dengvaxia vaccine, the Department of Health (DOH) issued a demand letter to the manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur for the refund of unused vials of the anti-dengue vaccine, which was subsequently complied with by Sanofi Pasteur on 19 January 2018, paying off P1.16 billion to Philippine Children Medical Center. The refund was then transferred by PCMC to DOH which, in turn, remitted the fund to the Bureau of the Treasury on 26 January 2018.

Legarda also pointed out that “the problem also was Congress was being rushed to pass this measure, when the funds have been there all along. Just the same, I guarantee that we will take this up as the first agenda when we resume our session after the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July. Congress stands adjourned sine die until July 23, but I assure the public, all the victims and their families that this bill will be immediately approved to provide much-needed aid to the affected families and ensure that the medical assistance program is not yet too late in terms of making sure that we keep our children safe and healthy,” Legarda said.

The Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing on 28 May 2018 to hear the proposed bills on the supplemental budget to fund assistance such as provision of medical-kits, laboratory tests, hospitalization, and out-patient care services.