Whether you like it or not, they’re going to build a mega vaccine facility at Nayong Pilipino.
“It’s going to be built,” ICTSI (International Container Terminal Services Inc.) chairman and CEO Enrique Razon Jr. said categorically in an interview with Pia Hontiveros on CNN Philippines yesterday.
Razon went on the offensive, calling NPF (Nayong Pilipino Foundation) executive director Lucille Karen Malilong Isberto “a crazy person.”
NPF is opposing the building of a mega vaccination site on the 22-hectare property, saying in a statement that the site for the facility (Razon is eyeing 10 hectares) is “not a vacant lot but has a thriving urban forest that hosts a variety of urban wildlife and is the last remaining grassland in the reclaimed area of Parañaque.”
Razon said, “This is a complete lie. Nayong Pilipino did not plant any trees there. This is just grown with wild weeds, talahib, and some ipil-ipil trees which grow on empty properties. People have to realize that we’re in the middle of the biggest crisis sicne the occupation of the Japanese in World War 2.”
The businessman added, “It’s a crisis of stupidity that’s happening now.”
He said that the country is “in the middle of the biggest crisis since the occupation of the Japanese in World War 2. We need to vaccinate people to be able to open the economy. At the rate the vaccination is going it will take years to obtain herd immunity.”
The proposed facility will have vaccination stations including drive-thru lanes and storage for the vaccines.
Unused CCP parking lots
So where in Metro Manila could such a huge facility be put up without harming an existing ecosystem?
Urban designer and landscape architect Paulo Alcazaren, principal of PGAA Creative Design-Planning and Urban Design Consultants, tells PhilSTAR L!fe that for a drive-thru/walk-in vaccination site, the parking lots of the CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) complex are a better alternative and they are currently unused.
Alcazaren explains, “This area is more publicly accessible and is easily convertible to a drive-thru facility because it is paved. If the Nayong Pilipino is used, it will take a few months to put in pavements, water and power lines, and support buildings. The CCP complex is ready now. It would only take a few weeks and is serviced by public transport from Taft.”
In a Facebook post, Alcazaren said, “There are more than six hectares of already paved and ready space at the CCP complex for a megavac drive-thru and walk-in facility. No trees need to be cut down. More importantly, this location is more accessible compared to the Nayong Pilipino—you can get here by public transport, which connects to buses and jeepneys along taft and the Vito Cruz LRT station.
“The Folk Arts Theater (if available) can be an added option. The CCP can screen recorded cultural productions of performers to present Zoom concerts to entertain those waiting for their shots. We could inject both culture and the vaccine at the same time. What do you think?”
Storage for vaccine
Razon said the government and private sector have ordered 20 million doses of Moderna vaccine, with the first batch scheduled to arrive on the week of June 21.
“We are inoculating basically 10 million people. This vaccine, like Pfizer, requires special handling. In the case of Moderna it’s 25 to 30 degrees below zero. We want to start inoculation within 24 hours of arrival and continue until the final shipment of the vaccine. You cannot just spread out the vaccine all over the place because of the special handling and temperature required. Investments have to be made so there won’t be spoilage. You need a mega vaccination site similar to what they have in other countries like the United States.”
Nayong Pilipino said in a statement last week that “the abrupt cutting of close to 500 trees and other site works on the NPF property will kill the existing ecosystem. Once lost, it could take decades to recover this ecosystem. A mega vaccination facility that will destroy this ecosystem would be a disaster and a disservice to the residents of Metro Manila who need more green and open spaces.”
Razon told CNN anchor Hontiveros that the reclaimed land has been overrun with weeds and talahib. “It has been empty for more than 10 years. It’s not like this is a forest in Quezon or Marikina or somewhere. It’s not a forest.”
He added that “a lot of people are making stupid comments on what they know nothing about.”
The businessman questioned the motives of Nayong Pilipino and implied that the vaccination facility might get in the way of questionable deals.
“Why did they not build a park 10 years or 5 years ago? Why all of a sudden now they want to build a park? People can’t even go to a park because they’re on lockdown. Let’s vaccinate people and when the vaccination ends, they can do whatever the hell they want there.”
He added that Nayong Pilipino had previously leased the site to “a questionable Chinese company whose CEO has been arrested in China. They leveled and bulldozed the place two years ago. I don’t know what they’re talking about, the ipil-ipil trees.”
He added, “Maybe we interrupted some suspicious plans they have, or a deal they’re making for that property.”
In its statement dated May 6, Nayong Pilipino questioned the propriety of allowing a private foundation, in this case the ICTSI Foundation, “to use government property contrary to Presidential Decree No. 1445. ICTSI Foundation is part of the Razon group of companies. Legal issues are being studied to ensure full compliance with all laws, rules, and regulations.”
Nayong Pilipino said that it is currently participating in the Covid Response effort by hosting a quarantine facility on its property located in Entertainment City, Parañaque. “This quarantine facility is operated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Due to issues of extreme heat and mosquito infestation, causes of major discomfort to patients and medical personnel, the NPF is providing assistance to the AFP to improve the landscaping of the facility. A healing garden and tree grove are being designed by NPF to improve the well-being and welfare of the patients and the personnel manning the quarantine facility. This has been lauded by the Department of Health (DOH).
“The NPF is also developing a proposal to the DOH for vaccination in an urban forest. A mega-vaccination center close onsite, next to the quarantine facility, may pose a health risk on both healthy individuals securing their vaccines. A careful study of the design and ventilation systems for both are necessary to ensure there is no cross-contamination to take place.”
Razon, however, dismissed the criticism leveled on the proposed facility. “It’s going to be built,” he said.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said May 9 it was “inappropriate for the NPF to equate the fate of 500 ipil-ipil trees” with Filipino lives that would be lost to COVID.