Recto lauds Duterte for agreeing to pay COVID-19 vaccines in advance, hits PITC anew

Published November 24, 2020, 7:52 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday welcomed President Duterte’s decision for the government to pay in advance the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer, but maintained that the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) should not be the one tasked for its procurement.

Senator Ralph Recto (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

In statement, Recto said Duterte was “correct” in approving the prepayment of the coronavirus vaccines as “vaccines are not COD (cash-on-delivery) goods you can order from Lazada.”

“They are not postpaid items, but prepaid. More so when there is a race among nations to acquire them, with the first batches already pledged to rich nations who have bankrolled their development,” he added.

Recto said, however, that he hopes that the administration’s urgency to purchase the vaccines will be conveyed to the officials of the PITC “whose stint in office has so far been unblemished with success.”

“Kung nahihirapan ngang bumili ng suka, bakuna pa kaya (If they are having a hard time buying vinegar, what more if they are asked to purchase vaccines)?” he said.

Senators had said that the PITC should not be trusted for the purchase of the COVID-19 vaccines for the delays in its procurement, which make it appear that government agencies have been disbursing their allocations under the national budget.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said P33.4 billion in funds from various years have been “sleeping” in the Department of Trade and Industry-attached corporation.

Meanwhile, Recto said he hopes that the government will also pursue its vaccine supply deal with AstraZeneca “as their vaccine matches our wallet, reportedly the cheapest at $10 per person, and our weather, can be stored at home refrigerators.” 

“That will cut huge expenses for a cold chain, which the Pfizer vaccine would need as they have to be stored at -80 degrees Celcius —the infrastructure for which this tropical archipelago does not have,” he said.

Recto earlier pushed for additional funding to cover the government’s expenses for storage, delivery and post-vaccination surveillance, as well as the increased coverage of the immunization.

“Let us go for universal immunization. We cannot emerge out of this pandemic and recoup what we have lost if our society is divided between the Haves (may bakuna) and the Have Nots (at wala). ‘Sana all’ should be our fighting slogan,” he said.