MALACANANG, MANILA (11 April 2022) — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte urged Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) officials to ramp up their vaccination efforts as the region continues to lag behind other areas in the country in terms of vaccination output.

In his Talk to the People public address on Monday, President Duterte emphasized anew that all the COVID-19 vaccines that the national government has procured have been proven safe and effective.

“Mga kapatid ko na Muslim pati ‘yung the guys running the BARMM, I’d like also to appeal to Chairman, si Murad, na kindly give a little push for the people there to get vaccinated,” Presidente Duterte said.

“You know, it’s science. It has been studied, experiments were conducted hindi lang dito sa atin pati sa labas. As a matter of fact, it was a concerted effort during the pandemic,” he added.

The Chief Executive pointed out that BARMM officials should be more proactive in promoting the vaccination program to make residents understand that vaccination is a public health concern and not one that touches on their culture.

“We honor the culture but when it comes to a head sa ginagawa natin, what we are doing to protect the entire nation, your reluctance or your maybe lack of interest to be vaccinated, it does not, in my book, a valid reason na ayaw ninyo,” the President said.

“So I’m asking — I’m ordering you, as a matter of fact, to really push the people to take the vaccine because it protects everybody,” he added.

In his report, National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said that only less than 28% of BARMM’s total targeted population are fully vaccinated as of April 10.

“Ang total population po ng ating BARMM is 4.3 million. Pero ang fully vaccinated is only 960,000. Meaning, mayroon pong mahigit na 3.3 million pa ang hindi pa po nababakunahan,” Galvez said.

“So ‘yun po ang nakakabahala kasi ‘pag tumama po talaga sa BARMM, katulad po ng Hong Kong, ay maaaring grabeng maapektuhan po ang BARMM. Lalong-lalo na po na napakababa po ng healthcare facilities po ng BARMM,” he added.

The vaccine czar said that the NTF, Department of Health and other agencies have already conducted intensive workshops and writeshops to craft effective strategies in addressing the low vaccination output in the region.

Galvez said the national government is also deploying more doctors, nurses and vaccinators in the region to help them scale up their vaccination campaign.

“We are expecting na makumbinsi po ‘yung mga iba, karamihan po na makapagbakuna, Mr. President. So tututukan po namin ang BARMM, Mr. President,” he said.

BARMM says vaccination allowed even during Ramadan

The Bangsamoro Darul-Ifta (BDI), the region’s advisory council, took quick steps to heed the President’s call by issuing its official guidance on Tuesday regarding vaccination efforts in BARMM.

In the official advisory, the BDI said COVID-19 vaccination is considered as “life-saving” and therefore “lawful.”

The BDI also clarified that “vaccination does not invalidate the fasting” observed by the Muslim community during the holy month of Ramadan.

The advisory council also said the vaccination teams can conduct inoculation in designated areas beside or at the back part of mosques, to vaccinate more people after performing their prayers.

Holy Week reminders

Meanwhile, the DOH reminded Filipinos to strictly observe minimum health standards during the Holy Week.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the public must avoid religious rituals of penitence that may lead to the spread of the virus.

“Bagama’t alam po namin na marami sa atin ang tunay na deboto at may panata, kung maaari pa lang po sana maiwasan natin ang mga aktibidades kagaya ng pagpepenitensya sa paraan nang pagpapako sa krus at iba pa ho upang maiwasan natin ang tetanus at pagkakaroon ng sugat at impeksiyon,” Vergeire said.

“Pinapayuhan din po ng Kagawaran ng Kalusugan ang publiko na iwasan ang paghalik sa mga santo at santa at iba pang imahen o poon sa ating mga simbahan dahil maaari po itong maging paraan ng pagkalat ng virus,” she added.

President Duterte also reminded the public to continue following health protocols, especially the proper wearing of face masks.

“I’ll just state my case na hindi — there is no way that masks will not be required. It will be a part of the protocol for a long time until the last day of my office. Iyan ang order ko at ‘yan ang sundin ninyo,” the President said. ###