Malacanang has terminated the services of the head of the Nayong Pilipino following a clash with other senior officials which threatened to derail the setting up of a temporary mega-vaccination facility in their property adjacent to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Paranaque City.
Cabinet Sec. Karlo Nograles said President Duterte had accepted the resignation of Nayong Pilipino executive director Lucille Karen Malilong-Isberto.
“It was a resignation that was submitted to the President and the President accepted it. It was as simple as that,” he said in a TV interview.
Previous reports said Isberto had openly courted controversy for resisting plans of the National Task Force on Covid19 (IATF) and the Department of Health to put up the huge facility meant to handle inoculations of some 15,000 persons daily.
The reason cited by Isberto, who headed the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF), was that it would effectively derail construction of their cultural park project, and more significantly wreck the existing ecosystem in the area as the work would entail the cutting down of the “lush forest” composed of some 500 ipil-ipil trees.
However, this was countered by vaccine chief implementer Sec. Carlito Galvez who stressed that in this pandemic, the lives of millions of Filipinos are more important than the lives of 500 trees.
The NPF’s stiff opposition to the vaccination facility prompted the intervention of Malacanang brass who warned that its planned cultural park must give way to the more urgent purpose of meeting the public health emergency.
The NPF said the DOH’s vaccination campaign could be done in other venues like existing stadiums, theaters, parking garages, etc., and not confined solely to the Nayong Pilipino’s nine-hectare lot in Paranaque City.
But in a memorandum issued last week, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea ordered the NPF to back off and allow the Department of Health and the National Covid19 Task Force (IATF) to immediately proceed with the mega-vaccination and quarantine facility project.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, whose office supervises the activities of the Nayong Pilipino, had openly supported the project inasmuch as the state-run agency already hosts a Covid quarantine facility operated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
In giving her imprimatur, Sec. Puyat stressed “no trees will be cut” in the Nayong Pilipino complex to accommodate the vaccination site.
But this, reportedly, did not sit well with Isberto leading her to turn in her letter of resignation to the Palace, inasmuch as she is a presidential appointee.
Billionaire businessman Ricky Razon, one of the richest men in the country, had earlier offered to bankroll construction of the vaccination site to fasttrack to the desire of the government to achieve herd immunity by the end of 2021 by inoculating some 70 million Filipinos, and revive the economy.
It was reported that Razon was setting aside some P250 million for the mega-vaccination site, which was also designed pro bono by the firm of renowned architect Felino Palafox Jr.
Razon said it was “incomprehensible” that certain Nayong Pilipino officials would prioritize a cultural park over the interests of millions of Filipinos presently threatened by the coronavirus.
This, he said, is emblematic of the “talangka mentality” of certain people who are trying to undermine such a significant undertaking (meant to save lives) due to their own selfish interests.
Photo: ABS-CBN News