After months of procrastinating, which has resulted in the Philippines’ slide to “worst and last” in the Southeast Asian region in terms of the pandemic response, President Duterte has finally green-lighted the private sector’s request to purchase their own Covid19 vaccines, in a desperate bid to fast-track herd immunity and resurrect the economy.
“Maski magkano, ilan ang gusto nila ipasok, okay sa’kin,” he said during a nationally-televised public briefing on the deteriorating Covid situation last week in Malacanang.
But vaccine Sec. Carlito Galvez later clarified that this doesn’t mean open season for vaccine importations, because private companies will still have to include the national government in all dealings with foreign pharmaceutical companies in accordance with law.
What the President meant, Galvez said, was that the rules covering such deals will be greatly loosened to foster greater participation in the business sector, thus hastening vaccines distribution throughout the archipelago.
As of Mar. 30, just over a year since the first quarantine lockdown was foisted, confirmed Covid cases stood at a whopping 741,181 which showed the Philippines sorely lagging behind neighbors like Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore, Laos and Malaysia.
During the same event, the President directed Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. “to sign any and all documents that would allow the private sector to import at will” all the vaccines needed.
Galvez was earlier insisting that the private sector, as well as local government units, could only buy vaccines through a tripartite agreement with the national government and the vaccine supplier to prevent the “commercialization” of the jabs.
Several senators such as Ping Lacson, Frank Drilon, Imee Marcos, Migs Zubiri, Risa Hontiveros Sonny Angara, Kiko Pangilinan and Nancy Binay, among others, said Mr. Duterte’s move to liberalize vaccine purchases came on the heels of the lockdown imposed by the IATF in the NCR Plus bubble to deal with virus surge which was getting out of hand.
Earlier, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), voicing anxiety over the lethargic rollout of the vaccination program, called on the Palace to cut the red tape and permit unfettered vaccine purchases from abroad.
Data from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) showed that lockdowns imposed by the IATF pushed the country into its “worst post war recession” as GDP slid by almost 10 percent, with some 4.5 million Filipinos out of jobs.
Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez said however private companies may only buy vaccines in cooperation with the national government via a multi-party agreement, as provided by law.
Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler