The Philippines intends to purchase coronavirus vaccines through a government-to-government arrangement once they become available in the market to eliminate corruption , President Duterte announced on Tuesday.
The President initially offered the procurement deal to China, which he claimed has developed a vaccine, but later made the same offer to other countries that may produce the highly-anticipated vaccine.
“Let me tell everybody that hindi kami maghingi (we are not asking for it). We will pay. So, maganda sana government-to-government ang transaction. Walang corruption, wala lahat, kasi government-to-government (A government-to-government transaction will be good. There will be no corruption since it is government-to-government). I’m offering it to China kasi mayroon na sila (because they already have it),” he said during his address to the nation aired on state television Tuesday morning.
“As I have said earlier in the days that followed the COVID contamination, sinabi ko na I expect China to come up first (with the vaccine) because I believe sa Chinese expertise and knowledge. At hindi ako nagkamali, mayroon na sila (I was not wrong, they indeed have it),” he said.
Duterte said China does not have to look for private partners since his government is prepared to make a deal. “So, to the Chinese government, and to the people who are really parlaying the vaccine, you need not look for partners. We can make it government-to-government and I will pay you,” he said.
According to the President, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian mentioned the breakthrough in the coronavirus vaccine in China during their recent meeting. Duterte informed the Chinese envoy about his preference for a vaccine procurement involving both governments.
“We had a meeting with Ambassador Huang. He said that the vaccine is there. It will be a matter of — ano na lang.. paano i-distribute (how to distribute) and of course, what kind of transaction would it be for them and for us. I said for government ang sa Pilipinas kasi it will do away with corruption,” he said.
Duterte also reminded Health Secretary Francisco Duque about his decision on the vaccine purchase through government-to-government transaction. He cautioned authorities against dealing with private businessmen in the procurement of the product.
“Tell your men if they are into these negotiations that place first a government-to-government transaction. I hate ‘yang ano — ayaw ko ‘yung private persons, magbili tayo sa private Chinese businessmen. Diyan magkakaloko-lokohan eh (I don’t want to deal with private persons, that we buy from private Chinese businessmen. The trouble starts there),” he said.
“Kagaya ngayon, umatras yata kasi hindi yata nakapag-agree doon sa mga terms nila parang partnership to deal with the Philippine government (Like now, someone pulled out because there was no agreement in the terms of partnership to deal with the Philippine government),” he added.
Duterte clarified that he merely mentioned China and Russia as possible sources of the coronavirus vaccine given “the sense of urgency.” He said the government will actually choose the vaccine supplier that will ensure the country’s best interest.
“All options are on the table. The one that could give us the best interest for the country will be chosen,” he said.
Duterte also said he would leave the matter of vaccine procurement to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III since he handles the government’s finances. “Since he is going to pay, I will listen to Sonny. Siya yung magbayad. Kung walang maibayad, siya ‘yung makulong (He will pay. If there are no funds, he will go to jail),” he said.
Under the proposed 2021 national budget, the government has set aside an initial P2.5 billion for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
Duterte, who has offered to take the first vaccine shot from Russia, had earlier said he would need more money to vaccinate all Filipinos. He initially vowed to give the free vaccines initially to the poor, the police, and military personnel.