Senator Imee Marcos said the government should not further delay issuing digitized vaccination passes to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who need them urgently to take up jobs abroad.
Marcos said that prioritizing OFWs will allow the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to “get things going,” rather than wait for local government units (LGU) to overcome backlogs in transmitting the vaccination data of all their constituents.
“A more targeted approach is the solution. Overseas Filipino workers with existing job contracts, business travelers, and students trying to catch the start of their school terms can be among the first to be given passes,” Marcos said.
Marcos cited how the Japanese government manages the volume of vaccination data by issuing passes only to those who urgently need and apply for them through public health centers, all in 20 minutes.
“The DICT promised an August launch of vaccination passes during a Senate hearing last year. I distinctly remember because I believed it,” Marcos recalled.
With an international system of verifying vaccination passes not yet in place, Marcos said the government should also firm up diplomatic arrangements with countries that have a shorter list of acceptable vaccines than what the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended for emergency use.
“Major OFW destinations like Saudi Arabia and Japan have not approved vaccines like Sinovac’s, which has already been administered to millions of Filipinos,” Marcos pointed out.
“Even the DICT’s adoption of WHO technical standards for its VaxCertPH passes, complete with QR codes, may not be enough to assure unhindered entry abroad. Reciprocal arrangements between governments need to be worked out,” she added.
Marcos warned that recent border control problems of OFWs entering Hong Kong may recur in other countries until the government is able to roll out the VaxCertPH passes.
The inconvenience of long quarantines and frequent PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests that travelers go through can also be reduced, Marcos said, if the Department of Health updates its quarantine protocols as soon as the issuance of the VaxCertPh passes gains momentum, “as has been done in other countries.”
“After the recurring wave of lockdowns, we can glimpse a wave of recovery with these vaccination passes. We need greater mobility to increase business patronage and reduce joblessness,” Marcos said.