Pulse Asia Research, Inc. is pleased to share with you some findings on COVID- 19 from the February 2021 Ulat ng Bayan national survey. We request you to assist us in informing the public by disseminating this information.

The survey fieldwork was conducted from February 22 – March 3, 2021 using face-to-face interviews.

The following are only some of the key national and international developments that occurred in the weeks prior to and during the conduct of the fieldwork for the present survey.

  1. By the time the last survey interviews were being done, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines hit nearly 590,000, with several cases involving variants from the United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa being recorded by the Department of Health (DOH). Amidst the increasing number of daily cases, the Duterte administration rolled out its vaccination program that gives priority to health workers following the arrival of 600,000 doses of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines on 28 February 2021. The Chinese-developed vaccine was given an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 22 February 2021. The Philippines is expected to receive 44 million doses this year through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, with 9.2 million doses being delivered in the first half of 2021. The country’s vaccination rollout began amidst reports of smuggled vaccines being given to select government officials and military personnel as early as last year.
  2. On 26 February 2021, President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed into law the bill giving indemnity to vaccine makers should their vaccines cause serious adverse side effects to recipients. The law calls for the creation of an indemnity fund totaling P 500 M that would cover compensation for such events. Due to the absence of an indemnification program, the delivery of 117,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines that were originally scheduled in mid-February 2021 did not push through. In another move aimed at securing more vaccine doses for the country, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it is considering exempting Germany and the United Kingdom (UK) from the 5,000-person limit on the number of healthcare personnel allowed to work abroad annually. This will be done in exchange for 600,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines. The proposal was criticized by several senators who described it as a desperate move on the part of the administration. Meanwhile, the British Ambassador to the Philippines clarified that while the UK has no plans to enter into such an agreement with the country, it has agreed to share its excess vaccine doses to countries in need;
  3. The President rejected the proposals of the Department of Education (DepEd) for the resumption of face-to-face classes and of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to shift the quarantine status of Metro Manila from General Community Quarantine (GCQ) to modified GCQ. The President explained that without vaccines, it would not be safe to shift to a modified GCQ status that would, among other things, allow the conduct of face-to-face classes as well as the opening up of other segments of the economy. Still, President Duterte said he is optimistic that regular classes could resume in low-risk areas by August 2021;
  4. A resolution issued by the IATF on 26 February 2021 approved the uniform travel protocols for land, air, and sea travel crafted by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). Under the new guidelines, quarantine, travel authority, health certificate, and testing are no longer required. However, should a local government unit (LGU) require testing, this would be limited only to a Reverse transcription-polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test. The Department of Tourism (DOT) is hopeful that the easing of travel restrictions throughout the country will boost local tourism that has been adversely affected by the pandemic.For her part, Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo said while she supports the standardization of travel requirements nationwide, she expressed concern that the removal of a mandatory RT-PCR test prior to traveling might result in a spike in COVID-19 cases across the country;
  5. During a press briefing on 16 February 2021, Supreme Court (SC) Spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka announced that the SC, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has unanimously dismissed the electoral protest filed by former Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on 29 June 2016 after he lost the May 2016 vice-presidential race to Vice-President Robredo. At the same time that the PET dismissed the electoral protest of former Senator Marcos for lack of merit, it also dismissed the counterprotest filed by the camp of Vice-President Robredo. While the latter welcomed the decision as she said the dismissal of the electoral protest would now allow her to focus on the important task of helping the Filipino people, a lawyer of ex-Senator Marcos raised the possibility of filing a motion for reconsideration before the PET;
  6. In a resolution approved on 10 February 2021, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) declared that the period for the filing of certificates of candidacy for the 09 May 2022 elections would be from 01 to 08 October 2021. Those running for president, vice-president, senator, and party-list representative are allowed to campaign from 08 February to 07 May 2022 while the campaign period for those seeking a congressional seat at the House of Representative as well as those running for regional, provincial, city, and municipal positions will be from 25 March to 07 May 2022. With the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, COMELEC Spokesperson James Jimenez said there will certainly be changes in the way electoral campaigns will be conducted in the country. The COMELEC will be coordinating with the IATF as regards this matter. Meanwhile, the COMELEC said new voters will now be able to register five (5) days a week, Tuesday to Saturday, beginning 15 February 2021 up to 30 September 2021;
  7. The Bicameral Conference Committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives approved the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act on 03 February 2021. This piece of legislation seeks not only to cut corporate taxes from 30% to 25% for large corporations and 20% for smaller entities but also to modernize the country’s corporate incentives system. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) expects the CREATE Act, once signed by the President, to generate investments of at least P 200 B that will, in turn, create around two (2) million jobs;
  8. Malacañang announced on 15 February 2021 that the United States (US) should pay the Philippines in order for the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two (2) countries to continue. According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, the Philippines should receive around US$ 16 B, the amount received by Pakistan in the form of counterterrorism assistance from the US from 2001 to 2017. During the same period, the Philippines obtained only US$ 3.9B from the US. It may be recalled that President Duterte ended the VFA on 11 February 2020, with the termination taking effect after 180 days. However, on 02 June 2020, the termination was suspended upon the President’s order due to “political and other developments” in the country and in the Southeast Asian region. The deferment of the termination was extended in November 2020. The President said he would like to hear from the general public regarding the abrogation of the VFA before he makes his final decision on the matter but once he has hard evidence that the US has been storing nuclear weapons in the country, he will not hesitate to terminate the VFA immediately.
  9. The Defense Committee of the Senate released a report dated 22 February 2021 regarding its investigation into the controversial statements made by Southern Luzon Command Chief and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) Spokesperson Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr. tagging journalists, students, politicians, celebrities, activists, and critics of President Duterte as sympathizers or even members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and other leftist organizations. The committee found the remarks of Lt. Gen. Parlade as damaging to the organizational integrity the NTF-ELCAC and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The AFP said it will conduct an investigation into the matter after Lt. Gen. Parlade’s recent red-tagging of a newspaper reporter but pointed out that it is incumbent upon the latter to disprove the military official’s claim that the reporter is a communist propagandist.
  10. The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) announced a cut in its power rates for February 2021 due primarily to a drop in its generation charges arising from lower fixed charges from its power supply agreements. Additionally, the latter is set to issue a refund of P 13.89 B to its customers in the next two (2) years and this will be reflected in lower power rates from March 2021 onwards. On the other hand, oil prices went up during this period, with year-to-date adjustments as of 02 March 2021 showing an increase of P 6.20/liter for gasoline, P 5.70/liter for diesel, and P 5.05/liter for kerosene, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). Consumers in Metro Manila have had to deal with higher prices of pork and chicken as well. As a result, President Duterte issued Executive Order (EO) No. 124 that puts in place a 60-day price ceiling on pork and chicken beginning 08 February 2021. With the price of pork surging beyond P 400/kilo in January 2021, the EO mandates the selling of pork products at P 270 to P 300/kilo and of chicken products at P 160/kilo. At the same time, the President ordered the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to work together with law enforcement agencies to run after smugglers, profiteers, and hoarders who are driving up the prices of basic food commodities.
  11. In international news, former US President Donald J. Trump was acquitted during his second impeachment trial on the charge of incitement of insurrection arising from the riot at the Capitol that occurred on 06 January 2021. With only 57 senators pronouncing former President Trump as guilty, the Senate fell short by 10 votes of the two-thirds majority required to convict him. Meanwhile, in Myanmar, a coup d’état was launched by the country’s military on 01 February 2021 as it ousted and detained members of the ruling party who were elected by the people in November 2020. Subsequently, the military declared a year-long state of emergency, with power being bested in the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services.

This nationwide survey is based on a sample of 2,400 representative adults 18 years old and above. It has a ± 2% error margin at the 95% confidence level. Subnational estimates for each of the geographic areas covered in the survey (i.e., Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) have a ± 4% error margin, also at 95% confidence level. Those interested in further technical details may refer to our website (www.pulseasia.ph)

Pulse Asia Research’s pool of academic fellows takes full responsibility for the design and conduct of the survey, as well as for analyses it makes based on the survey data. In keeping with our academic nature, no religious, political, economic, or partisan group influenced any of these processes. Pulse Asia Research undertakes Ulat ng Bayan surveys on its own without any party singularly commissioning the research effort.

For any clarification or questions, kindly contact Ana Maria Tabunda, Research Director of Pulse Asia Research at 09189436816 or Ronald D. Holmes, Pulse Asia Research President via Viber or Telegram at +639189335497 or at ronald.holmes@gmail.com (via email).

Pulse Asia Research’s February 2021 Ulat ng Bayan Survey:
Media Release on COVID-19
26 March 2021

Concern about contracting COVID-19 is nearly universal among the country’s adult population (94%)

Amidst the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the country, 94% of Filipino adults say they are worried that they or any member of their household will get sick with COVID-19. Majority levels of concern are posted across geographic areas and socio-economic classes (89% to 96% and 93% to 95%, respectively). In particular, 69% of Filipinos as well as small to considerable majorities in the various areas and classes (64% to 74% and 61% to 70%, respectively) are very much worried about contracting COVID-19. The rest of Filipino adults are either undecided on the matter (3%) or are not worried about contracting COVID-19 (3%). (Please refer to Table 1.)

Almost all Filipino adults report awareness of vaccines against COVID-19 developed in selected countries (93% to 100%); public opinion as regards the trustworthiness of these vaccines is mixed

Practically every Filipino adult knows about the vaccines against COVID-19 developed in China (100%), the United States (99%), Russia (97%), the United Kingdom (96%), and India (93%). Distrust is the prevailing opinion toward vaccines developed in China (63%). On the other hand, a big plurality of Filipino adults (44%) trust COVID-19 vaccines developed in the United States (US). Indecision is the plurality sentiment regarding the trustworthiness of those vaccines developed in the United Kingdom (43%) and Russia (40%). As for vaccines developed in India, virtually the same percentages of Filipino adults either distrust such vaccines (45%) or express ambivalence on the matter (43%). (Please refer to Table 2.)

Disinclination to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is expressed by 61% of Filipino adults; concern about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines is the leading reason for vaccine hesitancy

Around six (6) in 10 Filipino adults (61%) do not want to get any COVID-19 vaccine – a sentiment shared by majorities across geographic areas and socio-economic groupings (56% to 63% and 59% to 68%, respectively). About a quarter of Filipino adults (23%) are unable to say whether or not they will get vaccinated while 16% reply in the affirmative. (Please refer to Table 3.)

Most of those not getting vaccinated (84%) and those who are still undecided about being vaccinated against COVID- 19 (74%) point to uncertainty about COVID-19 vaccines as the primary reason to explain their disinclination to be given such vaccines. This is the majority opinion across areas and classes among those against vaccination (80% to 90% and 82% to 86%, respectively). Meanwhile, among those ambivalent on the matter of getting vaccinated, majorities in all areas as well as Classes D and E (57% to 82% and 56% to 83%, respectively) also cite the same reason. In Class ABC, a near majority of those who cannot say whether or not they will get vaccinated (49%) are questioning the efficacy of vaccines against COVID-19. (Please refer to Tables 4 to 6.)

The other reasons given by Filipino adults to explain why they are either against vaccination or undecided on the matter have to do with: (1) uncertainty about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines (7% to 15%); (2) the view that a vaccine is not necessary to combat the disease (6%); and (3) price-related concerns such as vaccines either not being given to the public for free (1% to 3%) or being costly or expensive (1% to 2%). (Please refer to Tables 5 to 6.)

The vaccine developed by Pfizer is the one most preferred by those willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19

Among Filipino adults inclined to get a COVID-19 vaccine, 52% choose the vaccine developed by Pfizer – a view echoed by small pluralities to huge majorities across geographic aeras and socio-economic groupings (38% to 73% and 48% to 73%, respectively). On the other hand, 22% favor the vaccine by Sinovac. Other COVID-19 vaccines preferred by at least 1% of those willing to get vaccinated against the disease are those made by AstraZeneca (6%), Gamaleya Research Institute (3%), Johnson & Johnson (1%), Sinopharm (1%), and Moderna (1%). The rest of Filipinos inclined to be vaccinated are either undecided about which COVID- 19 vaccine to get (6%) or are willing to be injected with whichever vaccine is available (9%). (Please refer to Table 7.)