PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday, November 29, that he is inclined in making coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccination mandatory in the country amid the threat of the new and potentially more transmissible Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) of Sars-CoV-2.

“I may agree with the task force if they decide to make it mandatory (vaccination). It’s for public health. Now, kung ayaw mo, ‘wag kang lumabas,” Duterte said during his Talk to the People Address.

“It’s actually to protect public health... In some countries, mandatory na. Dito, maingay ang human rights... Now, under the police power of the state, I can compel you (to get vaccinated),” he added.

For those who would continue to resist vaccination, Duterte said they have a choice to either live longer or die early.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, however, suggested that while making vaccination mandatory remains to be just an idea, strict protocols on unvaccinated population should be imposed instead.

He said the national government may impose protocols that will make it hard for the unvaccinated to live while there is a pandemic.

Año noted that the country already has a sufficient supply of vaccines that are being administered for free, which gives the public no reason not to get inoculated.

Business leaders in Cebu agreed with Duterte’s plan.

Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Felix Taguiam said the latest threat of the Omicron variant should not be taken lightly this time.

“The government through the Department of Health (DOH) experts must make a decision. We must learn from our past mistakes and we can’t be complacent,” Taguiam said.

The national government must make a clear order on mandatory vaccination so as not to hamper the vaccination program of the local government units, he added.

“If it is for the good of the majority, then so be it. Cebu is now seeing the positive results of our vaccination program. Let’s all cooperate to help save our economy and well-being,” Taguiam said.

Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Steven Yu supports the revival of stricter screening and quarantine measures in the borders. He said detection, tracing and other preventive measures on the ground must be intensified to sustain the reopening efforts that the government have made so far.

“In the face of a threat of a variant of concern, the immediate measure is to prevent the entry and spread of the Omicron virus within our country,” he said.

He said many countries have started making vaccinations mandatory, and some other countries are considering implementing it too.

“If the interests of the greater good of mankind calls for it, and there are no legal impediments for such action, then we interpose no objections to such a course of action,” Yu said.

Filipino Cebuano Business Club president Rey Calooy said they support the move but urged the government to make a collective stand whether to make vaccination mandatory or not.

“Vaccination is not mandatory. But the government highly encourages the public to get vaccinated and be protected against preventable disease,” he said.

“Filceb’s position is to support (that) move; however they have to change what the DOH have been saying that vaccination is not mandatory,” he added.

Calooy said the national government must also fast track the vaccination before the Omicron variant could enter the country.

“Christmas season pushed great threats for Covid-19 to spike after the holiday season. I think the Congress and Senate will enact laws making vaccination compulsory,” he said.

The Omicron variant was first detected in Botswana, and then in South Africa.

It was tagged as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization.

The national government has imposed ban on flights coming from Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique where there were already local cases of Omicron.