Galvez appeals to Nayong Pilipino to urgently approve the mega vaccination site amid environmental concerns

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 10) — Time lost is lives lost, vaccine czar and National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez, Jr. said, as he called on the Nayong Pilipino Foundation to immediately sign the agreement on the construction of a mega vaccination site in the area.

In a statement on Sunday, he said the government “[does] not wish to downplay” the position of the NPF board, which has raised concerns regarding the project, including its impact to the ecosystem.

Galvez stressed, however, the “urgency” of building the facility, which is seen to help hit the target of nationwide herd immunity from COVID-19 within the year.

“We would like to emphasize that the government deeply cares for the environment,” he said. “But as the pandemic wreaks havoc on the lives of our people and our economy, we have to make the choice. ‘Green and open spaces’ will be useless if there will be no one to visit them.”

Last month, the national COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force approved the proposal for the mega facility’s construction at Nayong Pilipino. Still, site works have not yet begun, as the NPF board has yet to sign a memorandum of agreement with the national task force.

On Thursday, the board said the abrupt cutting of nearly 500 trees, along with other site works on the property, will kill the existing ecosystem and negatively impact Metro Manila residents. Galvez said, however, they believe it is “inappropriate” 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,” he added.

He also assured that the environmental impact of the project has been “carefully considered” in the vaccination site’s design by renowned architect and urban planner Felino Palafox.

Health, legal concerns

Apart from environmental matters, the NPF raised possible health risks for people set to receive vaccines, since a quarantine facility is also located at the Nayong Pilipino.

“A careful study of the design and ventilation systems for both are necessary to ensure there is no cross-contamination to take place,” the board said.

It also questioned the propriety of allowing a private institution, the ICTSI Foundation, to operate and manage the government property, "contrary to Presidential Decree No. 1445." The foundation is part of tycoon Enrique Razon Jr.’s group of companies.

In response, Galvez pointed out that Razon has offered to build the facility at no cost to the national government.

Vouching for the billionaire's integrity, Galvez added that Razon’s offer for help “reflects his deep concern for his countrymen and strong commitment to help the government in scaling up the nation’s COVID-19 response, mitigation and vaccination efforts.”

The mega vaccination center eyed at Nayong Pilipino is expected to accommodate around 10,000 vaccine recipients daily. The government said that once vaccine supply stabilizes, it aims to inoculate 500,000 people in Metro Manila per day to help reach the goal of immunizing 50 to 70 million Filipinos against COVID-19 by year-end.