By Deighton Acuin and Archie Villaflores

PHOTO: My Joy Online

Malacañang said Monday that all private companies, including tobacco, soda and liquor, infant milk formula, and tobacco, can purchase coronavirus vaccines for their employees provided they done it under a tripartite agreement with the pharmaceutical manufacturers and national government.

“Isa pa pong paglilinaw, puwede na pong bumili ng bakuna ang lahat ng pribadong  kumpanya, kasama ang cigarette companies,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said during an online media briefing.

Roque’s announcement came after several House lawmakers aired their concerns over plans of the National Task Force against COVID-19 and the Department of Health (DOH) to block private firms to be involved in vaccine procurements for the inoculation of their employees.

The lawmakers, led by House Ways and Means Chairperson and Albay City Representative Joey Salceda, argued such a plan is detrimental, if not hamper the national inoculation campaign.

“This is under the amended IRR of the COVID-19 Vaccination Law,” Roque added.

However, Roque stressed such vaccine deals should be done through the tripartite agreement.

“Hindi po puwedeng mawala ang tripartite agreement [kasama ang gobyerno],” he said.

Prior to the Palace official’s pronouncement, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe said such vaccine deal restriction is not based on a whim.

He also clarified the policies should not block vaccines for anybody.

“There are limitations in providing opportunities to these industries to provide for health-related services or using health-related services for marketing or advocacy. It is in this light that the DOH does not encourage those industries to be involved in the distribution of vaccines,” Abeyasinghe said during the Laging Handa briefing.

“Of course, their workers [of abovementioned companies] will be entitled to a COVID-19 vaccine under the national vaccination rollout. We don’t believe they will be left behind as the vaccine rollout happens,” Abeyasinghe added.