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Duterte taps Galvez as 'vaccine czar'

President Rodrigo Duterte has assigned the role of "vaccine czar" to National Action Plan vs COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr, Malacañang said on Monday, November 2.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque replied in the affirmative to reporters asking to clarify if Duterte's statements in a Super Typhoon Rolly (Goni) situationer meeting meant Galvez had been given the role.

"Pagbili ng bakuna, the negotiation, manufacture, production, or distribution, binigay ko 'yan kay Secretary Galvez," Duterte said during the meeting held at the Malacañang Golf Clubhouse.

(For the purchase of a vaccine, negotiation, manufacture, production, or distribution, I've given it to Secretary Galvez.)

"Only Secretary Galvez is authorized to negotiate or whatever. Isa lang. Ayaw ko 'yang committee-committee. Matagal 'yan (Just one person. I don't like committees. They take too long.)," the President said.

But despite Duterte's disdain for "committees," his own coronavirus task forces are actually composed of a variety of task groups and technical working groups – groups of government officials representing relevant government agencies.

'Task group' on vaccine distribution

Last Thursday, October 29, the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) created a structure that would manage and distribute COVID-19 vaccines once they become available to the Philippines.

The vaccine task group is to be led by the Department of Health. It's not clear how Galvez's new role as "vaccine czar" affects this arrangement. (READ: What we know about the Philippines’ COVID-19 vaccine plans)

In the same meeting, Duterte expressed his preference for "only one line of authority come from the task force."

Galvez already has a leadership role in the government's pandemic efforts, being chief implementer of the national action plan.

His role is distinct from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who heads the National Task Force vs COVID-19 (NTF), and Duque who heads the policy-making IATF-EID.

The 57-year-old Galvez served as chief of the military from April to December 2018. After his retirement, Duterte appointed him Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Apart from Galvez, there are 4 other "czars" in the Duterte government's COVID-19 response – testing czar Vince Dizon, treatment czar Leopoldo Vega, tracing czar Benjamin Magalong, and isolation czar Mark Villar.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto had previously suggested that Duterte appoint a vaccine czar, given the expected challenges of vaccine distribution, including the likely need for a system of ultra-cold storage. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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