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The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has ordered five mayors, including Bataraza Mayor Abraham Ibba, to explain why they were included among the beneficiaries of the initial rollout of COVID-19 vaccines intended strictly for medical frontliners.

Apart from Mayor Ibba, who received his first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine on March 22, the other mayors included in the DILG show cause order were: Mayor Alfred Romualdez of Tacloban City, Leyte (vaccinated March 22), Mayor Dibu Tuan of T’boli, South Cotabato (vaccinated March 19), Mayor Sulpicio Villalobos of Sto. Niño, South Cotabato (vaccinated March 19), and Mayor Noel Rosal of Legazpi City, Albay (vaccinated March 16).

The DILG has warned that public officials may face possible sanctions if they are found to have violated the vaccine prioritization. Health Undersecretary and Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire had earlier expressed concern that Philippines might risk losing future global donations to the country’s Covax facility for failing to follow prioritization requirements.

In response to the order, Ibba told Palawan News in an interview that he had already communicated to the DILG to explain that he received the vaccine as a health frontliner.

“Frontliner din ako. Kung ibang mayor ay hindi frontliner, eh, ako frontliner ako. Ako nangunguna noong simula ang COVID-19. Ako nga nagchecheckpoint so, frontliner ako. Basta ako alam ko frontliner ako kasi ako nangunguna sa lahat. Kung may magkaka-Covid ditong frontliner ako yon. Frontliner ako, pero naka-explain na tayo,” Ibba said in a phone interview on Wednesday afternoon.

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He added that he received the jab to also encourage other health frontliners who are hesitant to accept the vaccine and to submit to the prioritization.

“Maraming nag-aalangan na mga frontliners natin, ayaw magpa-vaccine so ‘yon ang ginawa, pinag-usapan. Sige sabi ko since andito na mauna ako para wala nang duda ‘yong iba,” he said.

Ang purpose natin para ma-convince ang ating mga frontliners at ating mga kababayan. Ngayon kung nagtitipid ng vaccine ay kaya nga kami nag-appropriate kami ng 30 million para pangdagdag tulong sa local government,” he added.

Ibba received the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 22, as the town rolled out its vaccination program with around 1,000 doses allocation from the Department of Health (DOH).

Previously, the Bataraza municipal government, alongside mining firms in towns Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC) and Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC), have allocated P30 million to bankroll its vaccination program.

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is a desk editor and senior reporter of Palawan News. He covers politics, environment, tourism, justice, and sports. In his free time, he enjoys long walks with his dog, Bayani.