30 April 2021 – To lessen the Philippines’ dependence on vaccine importation, the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) and four key agencies will issue a Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) to institutionalize the green lane for local vaccine manufacturers in a bid to meet the crucial demand for COVID-19 jabs.

ARTA will spearhead the circular’s implementation with other proponents namely the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Trade and Industry-Board of Investments (DTI-BOI), and Department of Finance (DOF).

The JMC will mandate the creation of a green lane to “facilitate the expedited permitting process in the establishment and operation of local vaccine manufacturers” in hopes of encouraging vaccine commercialization and production in the country that is not only limited for COVID-19.

According to ARTA Deputy Director General Ernesto V. Perez, one of the aims of the JMC that they are crafting is to standardize the documentary requirements, steps, and processing time for the applying companies during the pandemic.  

“We will implement those processes and permits under an emergency, without of course sacrificing the safety features of the COVID-19 vaccine we are envisioning to be manufactured in our own country,” he said.

Meanwhile, ARTA Director General Jeremiah Belgica hopes this will pave the way to fast track, too, other equally important COVID-related products.

“For now the priority is on COVID-related medicines. The President is very clear with the vaccines. But if we can do already a green lane for the vaccines, why not do a green lane for all medicines that would be COVID-related?” the ARTA czar said during the first virtual General Membership Meeting and Induction of the Philippine Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry, Inc. on Friday afternoon.

House Deputy Speaker Bernadette Herrera-Dy, who championed the Ease of Doing Business Law in the Lower Chamber, expressed support to ARTA’s move.

“The JMC that DG Miah [Jeremiah Belgica] is actually discussing is a faster way na kung maialis natin sa FDA yung bulk of the decision-making especially for registration then pwede nating gawin yun para mapa-declog si FDA. So isa yun sa pwede nating suportahan yung JMC na ginagawa niya,” Herrera-Dy said in the same event attended by the ARTA czar.

But the Bagong Henerasyon party-list lawmaker also noted that legislative safeguards must be put in place to solidify the provisions of the JMC.

“[P]ara sustainable kasi pagka-hindi, mapapalitan ‘yan everytime there’s a new President, there’s a new Secretary. It’s important that we put a legislation into play. Pero para may rush temporarily andiyan yung JMC na gagawin,” Herrera-Dy said.

ARTA is still left to host a number of meetings with the aforementioned agencies and other key stakeholders to finalize the JMC for the local COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers’ green lane.

Thereafter, the JMC will be submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte to serve as legal basis for an Executive Order.