If the government wants to relax quarantine restrictions further and inject life back to the sputtering economy, then it must speed up the vaccination of essential workers in Mega Manila, which accounts for about two-thirds of the country’s economic output, Senator Joel Villanueva said today.
“Kung nais pong ipagpatuloy ang pagluluwag ng lockdown sa ‘NCR Plus,’ dapat palawakin ang sakop ng pagbabakuna sa mga manggagawa na nasa rehiyong ito,” said Villanueva, who chairs the Senate labor committee. “The best way to honor essential workers is not through words, but to give them the one essential thing that will keep them safe and protected, and that is the vaccine.”
Villanueva said workers who cannot work from home should be moved up the vaccination queue.
“Day in and day out they put their lives on the line so that the lives of the rest of us can have a semblance of normalcy,” he said. “Ito yung mga trabahante sa industriya ng pagkain, sa transportasyon, sa manufacturing, sa media, sa construction,” Villanueva said, pointing out that workers in private infrastructure projects should also be included in the A4 priority list, given the seasonal nature of their employment.
“Maliban sa mahalagang ambag nila sa ekonomiya, marami din po sa sinusulong natin na maisama sa A4 list ay mga contractual workers na walang employers na magbibigay ng libreng bakuna. Karamihan sa kanila ay umaasa sa arawang sahod. Kaya po dapat na makabilang sila sa priority list upang sila ay makapagtrabaho ng ligtas,” Villanueva continued.
The National Economic and Development Authority on Monday released the subgroups in the A4 cluster of the vaccine priority list, or the group for essential workers, which Villanueva has been advocating.
Villanueva urged the government to kick-start the vaccination drive for economic frontliners and “set a Labor Day vaccination goal” of how many workers should have gotten their jabs by that time.
“I think that is one of the best May 1 programs this year. Yan po ang essential na programa. Ang kailangan ng mga manggagawa ngayon bakuna at hindi bolada,” he said.
“What’s the best Labor Day message of the government? A call to workers to ‘bare their arms’ because here comes the vaccine,” Villanueva said.
He said the importance of rolling out the vaccination drive in Central Luzon, Metro Manila, and Calabarzon is that they comprise the “nation’s economic locomotive.” The three regions contribute 61.6% to the country’s GDP, with the National Capital Region contributing 37.5%
“Hindi lang po production of goods and services ang tinitingnan natin sa mga rehiyon na ito, kung hindi tax contribution rin. Kung mahina ang economic activity dito sa Big Three, mahina rin po ang pasok ng buwis na inaasahan ng gobyerno pangtustos sa mga programang panlaban sa pandemya,” Villanueva said.
The country has over 2.5 million doses of vaccines since deliveries began in March, while the government revised its initial projection of 24.1 million doses to 11.5 million doses to arrive in the second quarter of the year.