Duterte: PH won't pay 'reservation fee' for COVID-19 vaccines

"You must be crazy."

President Duterte will not spend a single peso to pay a "reservation fee" to pharmaceutical companies that have yet to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, saying it is against the country's procurement laws.

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 Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on September 14, 2020. ACE MORANDANTE/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

In his public address on Monday evening, President Duterte claimed there are pharmaceutical  firms that want buyers to finance their vaccine research and development efforts.

"In other countries, they want cash advance bago tayo deliver-an ng vaccine. Eh kung ganun, patay tayong lahat (before they give us vaccines. If that's the case then we will all die). Every Filipino will die I can assure you," he said.

"Kung wala tayong ibigay sa kanila cash advance, eh di walang vaccine. Eh walang vaccine, di maghalikan na lang tayong lahat para mas madali. (If we can't give cash advance, then we won't have a vaccine. Let's just kiss each other and get this over with then)," he added.

According to Duterte, even if these pharmaceutical companies that he refused to name were already in the advanced stage of their clinical trials, he cannot pay the reservation fee because it is against Philippine laws.

He said these companies must be "crazy" if they think the Philippines will just pay for something that is not certain.

"There is nothing with finality, and you want us to make a reservation by depositing money? You must be crazy," the President said.

"The procurement law of the Philippines, this country, does not allow you to buy something which is non-existent or to-be-produced as yet. It’s a very exacting law and you must always reckon with, you know, prosecution and going to jail," he added.

President Duterte said such companies are not welcome in the Philippines because they are just looking for someone who will finance their research and development activities.

"Kita’y mugasto sa ilang pag-imbento ug pagtrabaho sa ilang vaccine. Mupalit unya ko sa ila, itusok nako ang vaccine sa ilang utok kay mga gago ang mga buang (They want us to finance their experiment and development of their vaccine. I will buy the vaccine from them and inject it into their brains because they are crazy)," he said.

"Better get out of this country, we don’t need you," he added.

Preference to China, Russia

According to President Duterte, the Philippines will give preference to China and Russia's COVID-19 vaccines as they extended a helping hand to the Philippines during the pandemic.

"If the vaccine of Russia and China are equally good and effective, just like any other vaccine invented by any country, I will buy first," he said.

"Noong naghirap tayo (When we were having a hard time) and there was nothing at all in sight... The only countries that offered to help initially and said, 'Do not worry when we invent one, we’d give you,' was Russia then China," he added.

Duterte, in particular, praised China for volunteering to help the Philippines in the fight against the respiratory illness.

"One good thing about China is you do not have to beg, you do not have to plead," he said.

President Duterte announced last week that the Philippines will buy from the country that will offer the cheapest vaccine against COVID-19, saying all of these have the same effect any way and that funds are already tight.

He likewise said last month that the Philippines may enjoy a COVID-19-free Christmas after he accepted Russia's vaccine offer. The Philippine government decided to do its own tests on Russia's Sputnik V and do the Stage III trials simultaneously with Moscow, which will fund it.