Duterte looking for more funds to buy virus vaccines

Published October 15, 2020, 3:36 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang said that President Duterte is looking for more funds to secure COVID-19 vaccines so that not only the initial 20 million Filipinos will get it for free.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presides over a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members prior to his talk to the people at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on October 14, 2020. (ROBINSON NIÑAL/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after  Duterte said that he has already found the money to buy COVID-19 vaccines.

Roque said that if the government is unable to secure additional funds, those who are not members of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Philippine National Police (PNP) will have to shoulder the expenses.

“Dapat po malibre ‘yan… Kaya kinakailangan maghanda ng karagdagang pondo ang gobyerno na hindi na manggagalng sa PhilHealth (It should be free for everyone. That’s why it is necessary fo government to secure additional funds outside PhilHealth),” he said, noting that PhilHealth is already unable to pay the PCR test of its members.

“I’m confident naman po hindi kailangang ilibre ang lahat kasi marami naman pong (But I’m confident that we don’t have to give it for free to everyone because there are a lot of people who) can afford $20 (about P1,000) per vaccine.”

According to Roque, the estimated price for a vaccine is $10 (about P500)  per dose. An individual should have two doses of the vaccine.

“I’m sure all of us puwedeng mabakunahan pero marami na po niyan ang magbabayad para sa bakuna (can get vaccinated but there will be a lot of us who will have to pay with our own money),” he said.

Roque said that if the vaccine will be available this year, the government would have to borrow from the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines to buy them. However, if it would be released next year, the funds for the vaccine will be taken from the proposed P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget.

Roque said that Russia building a pharmaceutical plant in the Philippines is a good thing for the country since it will ensure that the country has enough supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Inaasahan natin na kung dito po sila magma-manufacture, hinding-hindi po tayo mauubusan ng bakuna na dito sa Pilipinas gagawin (We expect that if the vaccine will be manufactured here, we will not run out of vaccines),” he said.

He said that the President’s promise of a vaccine is not a political placebo.

“It is based on science. The fact na ang dami na pong nasa third clinical trial means na nandiyan na po talaga ang remdiyo (that a lot of companies are already on the third stage of clinical trials means that the cure is already here),” Roque said.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel. Hinay-hinay lang po, hang in there. Malapit na pong matapos ito (Let’s take it slowly. Hang in there. This will all end soon),” he added.

Duterte said Wednesday that outgoing Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev told him that Russia will be coming to the Philippines.

“I just had a talk with the Ambassador or Russia, the outgoing, and we had a serious one-on-one talk. He said that Russia is coming in, meron lang sigurong tinatapos (I think they’re just ironing some things out). They’d want to establish a… gagawa sila ng planta (they want to construct a plant here) – pharmaceutical,” he said.

“Ang vaccine papasok din sila (They will also bring their vaccine in),” he added, referring to Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine which they offered to the Philippines.

Malacañang announced in August that an expert panel review from the Philippines will first have to review the results of the first and second phases of the clinical trials of the Russian vaccine.

The Russia-funded third phase of the clinical trials of Sputnik V by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology will be held simultaneously in the Philippines and Russia from October 2020 to March 2021. The vaccine is expected to be registered with the local Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by April 2021.