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Bong Go: include seafarers in COVID-19 vax priority list

February 27, 2021 - Saturday 6:02 PM by MDM

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Senator Christopher “Bong” Go urged vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of COVID-19 vaccines by including Filipino seafarers in the priority list for vaccinations in order to avoid any disruption in the national supply chain. 

According to Go, Galvez responded positively to the appeal of seafarer groups to be included in the priority list.  The Senator supported this appeal without prejudice to other sectors that are already identified as priorities, such as frontliners, and poor and vulnerable sectors. 

Go, who serves as the Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, pointed out that seafarers play a critical role in shipping, which will account for the movement of a significant portion of vaccines and other immunization-related materials given the logistical challenges of the country. 

“Paghandaan na natin kung papaano magagawang available at accessible ang mga vaccines sa lahat, lalong-lalo na sa mga nasa malalayong lugar kung saan limitado ang access sa mga pangunahing serbisyo,” said Go. 

“When the time comes that the vaccines are to be deployed, we must be ready to provide them to everyone regardless of where they live or whether they are rich or poor. Siguraduhin natin na walang maiiwan na Pilipino,” he stressed. 

The Senator has repeatedly asked the government to ensure the uninterrupted and speedy entry of vaccines into the country by implementing a strategy to secure the supply chain for COVID-19 vaccines, medicines and other related commodities. 

He specifically urged authorities to prepare cold storage facilities and other equipment that are needed for their inventory, use and distribution of vaccines once they arrive in the country. 

Go reminded authorities to ensure proper implementation of the national vaccination program for the systematic and equitable provision of the vaccines.  

As a member of the Senate Committee on Labor, Go further noted that the shipping industry is an important source of employment for Filipino seafarers. The country has an estimated 385,000 seafarers, accounting for nearly a quarter of the global total of 1.6 million. 

The International Maritime Organization, the United Nations body responsible for regulating international shipping, says the restrictions and subsequent lack of crew members have greatly strained global cargo operations from the bulk carriers which transport raw materials to container ships that deliver goods worldwide. Ninety percent of the world’s traded goods are transported via shipping.

With many countries, such as India, prioritizing the immunization of their seafarers, the Senator asked the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases to consider seafarers as essential workers to ensure their competitiveness as shipping companies opt for immunized workers and their continuing contribution to the country’s economy. 

“Alalahanin po natin ang mga ordinaryong Pilipino. Pakinggan at intindihin natin kung saan sila nanggagaling,” said Go. 

“Ngayon na napilitan ang karamihang umuwi dahil sa krisis at nawalan sila ng kakayahan para maghanapbuhay, responsibilidad natin na bigyang atensyon ang mga pangangailangan nila at tulungan silang makabangon mula sa kahirapan,” he appealed. 

Go is also the author of Senate Bill No. 1949 or the ‘Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2020’ which seeks to streamline the organization and functions of all government agencies related to overseas employment and migration into one department. 

“Habang sinisikap nating bigyan sila ng mas maraming economic opportunities dito, huwag rin natin pabayaan ang karamihan sa kanila na may hinahaharap na iba’t ibang pagsubok sa ibang parte ng mundo,” he ended. 

SBN 1949 is the third iteration of a measure filed by the Senator in 2019. The newest version ‘represents the unified position of the entire Executive branch of the government’ including the agencies which will be affected by the reorganization.

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