Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion echoed President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s decision that there is no need for the Philippines to remain in a state of public health emergency.
“We should not be in an emergency phase anymore,” said Concepcion, who led private sector efforts during the pandemic to procure Covid-19 vaccines and rationalize mobility restrictions without compromising economic activity. “I recently traveled to Europe and then to other Asian countries, and people are back normal like nothing happened,” Concepcion related. “Most flights still mandate the wearing of face masks, but that’sit,” he said.
Concepcion said the focus should now shift to making the vaccines, specifically the bivalent vaccines, available to a larger segment of the population. He explained that, with the lifting of the state of public health emergency, the Covid vaccines will no longer have the Emergency Use Authorization that makes it possible for the government to buy the vaccines. He said the pharmaceutical companies should now apply for a Certificate of Product Registration (CPR) so that the vaccines can be readily available to those who would like to take them. “If the pharma companies don’t apply for the CPRs, the Philippines may not be able to bring these vaccines here,” he said.
“The government should continue supporting the vulnerable, but it should also make the vaccines available to people who would like to take them on a voluntary basis,” he said. He added that the Food and Drug Administration should now prioritize CPRs so these can be sold locally.
“Let’s get the public to pay for the bivalent and let’s allow this to be voluntary and not mandatory. Let people choose how they want to manage their health,” he said.
Moreover, he reiterated the need to learn from the country’s experience during the pandemic, specifically how it exposed weaknesses in the country’s healthcare system. “It’s time we improve our health care system, not just for Covid.”
Concepcion and some of the country’s leading health and policy experts earlier pointed out how the lack of urgency and unclear delineation of roles within the country’s public health system hampered the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. He said that learning from and moving on from the pandemic will determine how well the country will manage the next public health emergency. “Eventually, Covid vaccinations should just be like the flu; there will be no mandates, but it should be readily available,” he said.
President Marcos decided to not extend the state of public health emergency, which expired last December 31, 2022. It will be recalled that former President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of calamity across the country in March 2020 when the virus that causes COVID-19 started to spread. Duterte extended the declaration twice, and President Marcos extended the COVID-19 state of calamity from September until the end of 2022.
While Concepcion agrees that people need to remain vigilant, he believes restrictions will no longer be in step with more pressing concerns. “The world has moved on and so should we. I fully support the President’s direction towards managing our health,” he said.