Duterte himself will scrutinize prices of COVID-19 vaccines

Published January 25, 2021, 11:46 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

President Duterte has vowed to personally look into the prices of the coronavirus vaccines secured by the government to determine if they are “reasonable.”

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (RICHARD MADELO/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO)

Addressing the nation Monday night, the President said he intends to “take a look and ask around” about the cost of the vaccines, telling the nation that the government’s supply arrangements made by vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. will still undergo a review.

“That’s not the end of the everything. The decision of Galvez is not, I said, the sum total of it all. It has to be reviewed,” Duterte said during his remarks aired on state television.

“And finally sa akin rin, I will take a look and ask around if it is really a reasonable pricing for us,” he added.

The price of the COVID-19 vaccines purchased by the government is among the contentious issues tackled in a recent Senate inquiry. Some lawmakers have pressed on officials to reveal the price for the sake of transparency but Galvez declined to do so owing to the confidentiality deal with the manufacturers. The Palace earlier dispelled concerns about the alleged high cost of the vaccine, saying a dose developed by China’s Sinovac only costs more or less P600.

In the same address, the President brushed aside claims that some people supposedly managed to thwart an attempt on overpricing or corruption in the government’s vaccine purchase. Those making such claim were only muddling the issue, according to Duterte. 

“May statement that they were able to prevent corruption or overprice because of their vigilance. No. Far from it actually. You’re just muddling up, ginugulo lang ninyo (You’re just muddling the issue),” he said.

He maintained that the government’s supply arrangements with vaccine makers must still go through scrutiny of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez. It is unlikely that any irregularity will slip past the finance chief, he added.

“Dadaan pa ‘yan kay Dominguez and you know how Dominguez is.  Tingnan mo kung makalusot yan kay Dominguez (It will still go through with Dominguez and you know how Dominguez is. Let’s see if that will pass through Dominguez),” he added.

In the early part of his speech, the President said he wanted to talk to the people alleging corruption in the government’s vaccination program.
Duterte remained skeptical about such allegations, insisting that no actual money will change hands in the procurement.

“Walang pera. Laway pa lang ito lata. Conversation, istorya. may nagsabi na corruption or they were able to obstruct or prevent corruption because of their timely… (There is no actual money. It’s all talk for now, conversation, story. Some said there were able to obstruct or prevent corruption because of their timely intervention),” he said.

“Mag-usap tayo. Tayo lang kung sino nagsabi niyan please rise and be brave enough to say you’re the one. I’d like to talk to you. Tayong dalawa lang (Let’s talk. Whoever said that please rte and brave enough to say you’re the one. I’d like to talk to you. Just the two of us),” he said.

The government earlier set aside P82.5 billion for the purchase of coronavirus vaccines for Filipinos. It has sought financial aid from multilateral partners like World Bank and Asian Development Bank to help secure the country’s vaccine supplies.

The government has so far secured millions of doses of vaccines from suppliers like Novavax, Sinovac, Moderna and AstraZeneca.  The first batch of the supplies is expected to be delivered in the country next month.

 
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