President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with key government officials at the Arcadia Active Lifestyle Center in Matina, Davao City on April 11, 2022. JOEY DALUMPINES/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Apr 12 (Mabuhay) — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Monday urged Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Chief Minister Ahod “Murad” Ebrahim to convince more Bangsamoro people to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Duterte expressed concern that BARMM has the lowest vaccination rate among 17 regions in the country with only 27.31 percent of the region’s target population of 3 million are so far fully inoculated.

“Mga kapatid ko na Muslim, pati yung (My Muslim brothers and sisters, and the) guys running the BARMM. I’d like also to appeal to chairman Murad na (to) kindly give a little push for the people there to get vaccinated,” he said in a prerecorded Talk to the People.

He said if BARMM residents continue to refuse immunization, the country would “not be able to solve the problem.”

Duterte noted that all Covid-19 vaccines were safe and effective because they underwent studies and clinical trials.

“It’s science. It has been studied, experiments were conducted. Hindi lang dito sa atin, pati sa labas (Not just here, but also abroad),” he said.

He said National Task Force (NTF) against Covid-19 implementer, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., will be flying to the BARMM to oversee the Covid-19 vaccination drive in the region.

Galvez earlier said both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the DOH have raised alarm over the possible surge of Covid-19 cases in BARMM amid the start of the month-long observation of the fasting month of Ramadan.

He said some Muslims refused to get vaccinated over concerns that the Covid-19 vaccines are not permissible in their religious and cultural beliefs.

Duterte, in response, said the government respects and honors their beliefs but noted that public health will have to be prioritized.

“Your reluctance or your lack of interest to be vaccinated… it is not, in my book, a valid reason na ayaw ninyo (to refuse it),” he said.

Because the BARMM is currently led by appointed, not elected officials after the enactment of a law postponing the region’s first regular elections from May 2023 to May 2025, Duterte said they are “bound by what the government says.”

To encourage the BARMM residents to get their jabs, Duterte also noted that Middle Eastern countries were even among the first to purchase Covid-19 vaccines for their people.

“The first to order the vaccines way ahead of the others, yung mga (are) Muslims ng (of the) Middle East. [The] United Arab Emirates was one, Dubai, nabili na kaagad nila, may pera sila (bought theirs right away because they have money),” he added.

‘Covid-19 is here to stay’

Duterte said people should always remember that “Covid-19 is here to stay.”

He added that the virus may “become irrelevant if everyone is vaccinated.”

“And we do not have to worry a contamination again because each body is fighting the virus,” he said.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) earlier said they are eyeing special vaccination days to address the low vaccination rate in BARMM.

Meanwhile, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said they will be coordinating with BARMM officials through the Philippine National Police to make sure that those who will be joining religious mass gatherings are vaccinated.

Año said under the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases guidelines, only those vaccinated individuals are allowed to participate in any religious services.

BARMM is composed of provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, and cities of Marawi and Cotabato.

To date, more than 66.2 million Filipinos are fully vaccinated with 12.2 million having booster doses. (MNS)

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