MANILA, Philippines – To significantly increase the number of Filipinos being given their COVID-19 booster shots, Manila Mayor and presidential aspirant Isko Moreno suggested to the national government that it work with companies running toll roads to use some toll booths as drive-thru vaccination sites.
Moreno explained his idea on Monday, January 17, during an inspection of the soon-to-open Bagong Ospital ng Maynila as a possible vaccination site.
The Manila city chief came up with the idea after observing that thousands of people who get vaccinated in Manila come from far-away provinces in Luzon, like Bataan and Quezon. Moreno has instituted an “open policy” for vaccinations, medicines, and testing in his city, which means these services are offered even to non-Manila residents.
“So ako lang, idea ko lang, ayaw ko sila pangunahan. Ang suggestion ko, baka yung [government] baka pwedeng maka-usap yung toll regulatory office, kausapin si Manny Pangilinan o si Ramon Ang, lahat ng entrance o exit ng mga tollgate, marami naman, mag-dedicate ng isang lane na magpabooster,” said Moreno in an interview with reporters.
(My idea is, just an idea, I don’t want to preempt them. My suggestion is maybe the toll regulatory office can talk to Manny Pangilinan or Ramon Ang about dedicating one lane among their tollgates for booster shots.)
“Baka lang. Ako naman, hindi ko naman alam kapasidad nila pero kasi itong idea na ito parang tulong-tulong na tayop. Yakapin na natin ang kaya natin yakapin. I know it’s not their job, but at the end of the day, it’s our country,” added the mayor.
(Just maybe. Me, I don’t know what their capacity it but this idea is just so we can help each other out. Let’s embrace who we can embrace. I know it’s not their job, but at the end of the day, it’s our country.)
Helps relieve pressure on local governments
Pangilinan and Ang are Filipino tycoons who own corporations that helped build and now manage major toll roads in Luzon. Ang’s San Miguel Corporation owns the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR), the Skyway system, NAIA Expressway (NAIAX), and the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX).
Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation owns North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), Cavite Expressway (CAVITEX), Cavite Laguna Expressway (CALAX), and NLEX Connector Road.
“For example, in the toll road in Bocaue, I think there are around 16 tollgates. What’s just two tollgates devoted to free boosters?” said Moreno.
“It’s just an idea because nobody can deny that the entire Luzon is going to Manila. Why would I make someone from Quezon travel when they can get vaccinated in STAR Toll or NLEX, in the many exits going to their towns?” said Moreno in Filipino.
He said the corporations are wealthy enough to afford the hiring of temporary vaccinators.
Vaccinations at tollways would reduce the pressure on local government units in Metro Manila who are accommodating persons from other parts of Luzon while at the same time cutting the time these people spend on the road just to get their COVID-19 jab, said Moreno.
Increasing the country’s rate of booster vaccinations has never been more critical with the arrival of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant and the need to open the economy to save jobs and livelihood. Only 4.8 million people have received a booster shot, according to health department data. This is 4.3% of the country’s population of 110 million. Over 55 million, meanwhile, are fully-vaccinated.
Manila’s vaccination initiatives
In Manila, Moreno has himself been busy setting up drive-thru vaccination sites. The drive-thru site in front of Quirino Grandstand in Luneta is now operating 24/7 and has seen long lines of cars at all times of the day since it opened last January 13. As of Saturday, January 15, nearly 6,000 people got their booster shot at the Quirino Grandstand drive-thru site, according to Manila City Hall.
On Monday, the city opened another drive-thru vaccination site at the Bagong Ospital ng Maynila, dedicated to public utility vehicle drivers and drivers of delivery vans.
Moreno also plans to use the renovated Manila Zoo as a vaccination site for minors aged 5 to 11 and the elderly. The idea is another bid to encourage this age group to get their jabs as vaccinees will be allowed to go around the newly-redeveloped zoo after getting their shots. – Rappler.com