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DOT on Nayong Pilipino row: NPF was part of the planning, ‘no trees will be affected’

By Tanya Lara Published May 12, 2021 6:07 pm

The Department of Tourism (DOT) released today, May 12, a statement to “set the record straight” on the feud between Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) and ICTSI chairman Enrique Razon Jr. on the proposed building of a mega vaccine facility in the park.

NPF is an attached agency of the DOT. A government-private sector partnership, the facility project is led by Razon’s ICTSI (International Container Terminal Services Inc.).

The DOT said, “We wish to correct the claims of Atty. Lucille Karen E. Malilong-Isberto, former executive director of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF), made in rounds of interviews with the media.”

Isberto’s statements, according to the Tourism Department “tend to misrepresent the facts surrounding the proposal to construct a mega vaccination center on its property in Entertainment City in Parañaque.”

It added that the plans of architect Jun Palafox took the environment in consideration and that “no trees will be affected” in the construction.

Last month, the DOT expressed its support for the facility, saying on April 12 that it welcomed the ratification made by the IATF on the DOT-endorsed initiative for the construction of the facility, “which is expected to vaccinate at least 12,000 people a day.” 

The Department of Tourism’s May 12 statement reads in full:  

1. Atty. Isberto claims that no details were presented to the NPF and that the plan was presented based just on a non-clear YouTube video. 

This is not true. The Department of Tourism (DOT) received a letter dated 8 April 2021 from National Task Force (NTF) Secretary Galvez seeking consideration of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation of the proposal. On the same date, the NPF Board of Trustees, including Atty. Isberto, met and approved the request for the use of the said property.  

There were two meetings between the NPF TECHNICAL TEAM and the team of architects engaged by the private sector to construct the free and temporary public walk-in and drive-thru vaccination center.  

As a matter of fact, it was the NPF who identified the area in the Parañaque property where the facility is to be constructed. The site that was offered by NPF, and accepted by the private sector architects, is the area where there would have minimal impact to the environment. Atty. Isberto was present in one of those meetings last April 17, 2021. 

The design of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation with their handwritten notes. Sketches provided by the DOT 

2. Some 500 trees will allegedly be affected by this initiative.  

This is false. No trees will be affected.  

It should be noted that the head of the team of architects engaged for the design of the mega vaccination site, architect Jun Palafox, is an environmental planner. Accordingly, the environment is of paramount consideration in the architectural plans. The architectural team has made sure to build the temporary vaccination facility around existing grasslands and trees.  

The NPF was sufficiently apprised. Minutes of the meetings where the architectural plan of the Palafox Team were discussed, showed that the NPF officials were present in the discussion, where it was cited that the option that they themselves offered was used the private sector design team.

The design of Jun Palafox and Associates.

3. Only the DOT, Secretary Galvez, and the International Container Terminal Services (ICTSI) Foundation of the Razon Group are supposedly pushing for the construction of the Mega Vaccination Facility.  

This is false. The IATF Resolution 109 dated April 10, 2021 ratifying the proposal to construct a free and temporary public walk-in and drive thru vaccination center in the vacant portion of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation property in Paranaque City. This approval would not have happened if there was no consensus among the 26 agencies of the government, headed by their respective Secretaries, which makeup the IATF. 

4. The DOT seems to be dealing directly with the ICTSI Foundation, which is questionable because the establishment of a vaccination site is a health matter.  

This is false. The only role of DOT was to facilitate the use of the NPF property because it is the mother agency of the NPF. This is similar to how the DOT facilitated the use of a portion of the Rizal Park for a vaccination site, in coordination with the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC), another agency attached to the DOT with the City of Manila. 

Pursuant to its mandate, it is the Department of Health (DOH) that will enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with NPF. Under the MOA, the DOH is obligated to maintain the property in good condition. The DOH will oversee the operations of the ICTSI Foundation in the Vaccination Site.  

The DOT will have no involvement in the operations and management of the site. 

5. The DOH allegedly does not support the proposal. 

This is false. The Secretary of the Health himself is the signatory of the Resolution, being the chairman of the IATF. 

In fact, to accommodate the innovative proposal of the private sector to provide free assistance in vaccine administration, the DOH constituted a Technical Working Group (TWG) under the National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) which is tasked to formulate guidelines for similar future arrangements. During the meetings of the NVOC-TWG on April 15, April 19, April 26, April 28, and May 5, the DOH sought to thresh out technicalities in the mega vaccination sites and has expressed support for the Mega Vaccination Site in the NPF Property.  

The DOH did not mention that it is against the Mega Vaccination Site and has in fact commended the DOT for the initiative. Atty. Isberto-Malilong has attended at least three of these meetings with the NVOC-TWG. 

Aerial shot of Nayong Pilipino.  Photo from NPF

6. The establishment of a vaccination site is claimed to be illegal. 

This is false. The use of the vacant lot is aligned with Presidential Decree No. 1445 or the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines which that provides that "government funds or property shall be spent or used solely for public purposes.” The vaccination of thousands of Filipinos everyday is definitely for a public purpose; it is not a commercial venture.

The land will not be used for any income generating purpose, and under the draft MOA for the use of the property, which will be between DOH and NPF, the use of the NPF Property will be time bound or for one year reckoned from the date of signing of the said agreement and will be exclusively used as a vaccination center within the purview of the government’s national vaccination program. 

The Office of the President has also invoked the state’s police power for public health and the general welfare of the people. 

It should be noted that under the draft NPF-DOH MOA, the DOH will oversee the vaccination administration in coordination with the ICTSI Foundation. Under Republic Act No. 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, the DOH and the NTF may enter into multiparty agreements for the procurement and administration of vaccines.