Robredo wants ‘elbow room’ for private sector in vaccine purchase

Published March 21, 2021, 2:04 PM

by Raymund Antonio

Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday, March 21, asked the government to allow the private sector to purchase coronavirus vaccines without the “stringent requirements.”


Speaking on her weekly radio show, she thanked the private sector for its help as many companies have entered into a tripartite agreement to purchase vaccines for their workers and their families.

However, she noted the stringent requirement of donating to the government 50 percent of the vaccines purchased will hinder small businesses from vaccinating their employees.

“Sana mas maging liberal na dito. Ang gustong sabihin imbes na pahirapan magkaroon na ng arrangement kung papaaano susunod pa din dun sa prioritization ng pamahalaan pero bigyan ng mas maraming elbow room yung private na makatulong. Kahit exclusive sa empleyado nila, tulong pa rin iyon sa Pilipinas di ba? (Hopefully, this can be more liberal. What I mean to say is instead of making it hard, we should have an arrangement on how the private sector can still follow the government’s prioritization list, but they should give more elbow room for the private sector to help. Even if the vaccines will be given exclusively to their employees, that’s still help for the Philippines, right?),” Robredo said.

Last week, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. announced that the government entered into a tripartite agreement with United States pharmaceutical company Moderna to purchase 13 million doses for the government and seven million for the Razon Group and Ayala Group.

Although Robredo agrees that the private sector can help in the government’s COVID-19 response, she is pushing for a less stringent requirement for the private sector, especially for smaller businesses.

The vice president said her office received a lot of inquiries from small businesses with most of them saying that they cannot afford a 1:1 vaccine ratio, with one dose going to the government for every dose purchased for their employees.

On Saturday, Nina Ellaine Dizon-Cabrera, owner of local beauty brand Colourette Cosmetics, trended on Twitter for a post criticizing the government’s push for private businesses to donate 50 percent of their vaccine procurement.

While bigger companies can shoulder the expense of donating vaccines to the government, small businesses won’t be able to afford this protocol, Robredo said.

“Nagpapasalamat tayo sa private companies kasi talagang nag-i-invest sila para dito pero sana di sya maging prohibitive sa mga maliliit na kumpanya. Tulungan sanang makabili na hindi ganoon kagrabe iyong requirements kasi ‘di na naman kaya ng lahat (We are thankful to private companies because they are really investing but hopefully, it will not be prohibitive to small companies. We should help them purchase without the stringent requirements because not everyone can afford it),” she added.

Robredo cited the best practices in Indonesia and India, where the private sector was allowed to purchase vaccines for their employees and dependents.

In Indonesia, the requirement was for private companies to buy a different brand of vaccines to avoid competing with the government for prices. Since January, Jakarta saw a drop in positive cases from 12,000 a day to 4,000 daily.

In India, the agreement allows private companies to sell the vaccines to the public as long as the government gets a share of the profits.

Although she is not proposing to sell the vaccines to the public, Robredo said it is worth taking a look into these best practices as to what will work for the Philippines.

“Sa lagay ngayon, dapat lahat sana ng tulong welcome na. Hanapan na lang ng paraan na di magiging masusunod iyon gusto niya mangyari pero di na magiging sobrang hirap para sa private company na tutulong (With what we are facing now, we should be welcome to all kinds of help. We can look at ways