Duterte may seek credit line from Russia, China for purchase of COVID-19 vaccines

The Philippines may ask for a "credit line" from Russia and China to facilitate the country's payment for the coronavirus vaccine if it is too expensive, President Duterte said Monday night.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Matina Enclaves in Davao City on August 17, 2020. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

The President said the government is willing to pay in installment for the vaccine supply that will be offered by the two countries to the Philippines.

“This is not for free for after all they did not develop the vaccine without great expense and also the human effort involved. Bibilhin natin ‘yan (We will buy them),” he said during a televised address Monday.

“If it is quite expensive then I will ask my friend (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin and (Chinese) President Xi Jinping to give us a credit, parang utang, a credit line but we will pay not in one payment but by installments. Basta ang sinasabi ko magbayad tayo. Hindi ito libre (I’m saying we will pay. This is not for free),” he said.

Duterte has proposed the payment scheme for the vaccine in case the country will be “short of money.” He recognized that like other nations, the country’s economy has been weakened by the coronavirus pandemic.

“All of the economy of the world, individual countries, have fallen flat. Lahat ngayon nagkakaroon ng (All nations are experiencing) economic hemorrhage. It is uncontrollable because people cannot really work. They cannot be productive. And so you have a problem at hand,” he said.

The President expressed gratitude anew to Russia and China for their offer to supply vaccines to the Philippines once these are available. He said a vaccine, which comes with a great expense, is the “only salvation available to humankind” in the face of the pandemic.

“I would like to thank Russia, President Putin, and China President XI Jinping for offering to provide us with vaccine as soon as it is possible for distribution to the public. I can't overemphasize my debt of gratitude,” he said.

Last week, the President accepted Russia's offer of its coronavirus vaccine and even volunteered to take a vaccine shot as a gesture of trust and gratitude.

Russia recently announced it has registered the world's first coronavirus vaccine and announced plans to share the supply with the Philippines. The approval of the vaccine, however, triggered safety concerns from some groups following reports it has not yet completed phase 3 trials.

The Palace said the country will work with Russia on the clinical trials, production, and supply of the vaccine. The clinical trials, to be funded by Moscow, will be conducted in the Philippines this coming October. The President may be injected with the Russian-made coronavirus vaccine as early as May, 2021.

Last month, the President said the nation may return to normal lives by December while lauding the breakthrough in the global race for the coronavirus vaccine. He particularly expressed appreciation for China's offer to prioritize the country in the access to such medicines.

Once supplies are available, he said the government intends to purchase vaccines and distribute them for free to the country's poorest of the poor, soldiers, policemen, and those from the middle income families.