The government’s chief economic manager said the private sector cannot directly import coronavirus vaccines due to existing rules that are outside the control of President Duterte.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said this categorically amid rising clamor from the business sector that they should be allowed to import without conditions to facilitate the arrival of vaccines and speed up inoculation of Filipinos in light of the alarming number of COVID-19 infection in the country.
Dominguez explained the government cannot be bypassed by the private sector because of two reasons mandated by the vaccine manufacturers and the law on vaccination.
Dominguez said that foreign pharmaceutical companies “insist” on the government to provide indemnity cover for COVID-19 vaccination.
By giving indemnity, pharmaceutical companies are assured that the government will pay compensation for potential serious adverse effects stemming from COVID-19 vaccines, which are only for emergency use.
“The requirement by pharma companies of government indemnity necessitates government involvement in purchases by the private sector,” Dominguez told reporters in a mobile phone message late Friday, March 19.
Dominguez also said that Republic Act 11525, also known as the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, prohibits anybody, aside from the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Task Force (NTF), to directly procure vaccines from manufacturers.
Under Section 5 of RA-11525, “Private entities may procure COVID-19 vaccines only in cooperation with the DOH and the NTF through a multiparty agreement, which shall include the DOH and the relevant supplier of COVID-19 vaccine.”
Last week, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry has called on the government to allow the private sector to import and buy COVID-19 vaccines directly from accredited sources without restrictions or conditions.
Last Friday, the ICTSI Foundation of global port operator Enrique K. Razon said it will spearhead a business group for the procurement of Moderna vaccines, but still through a tripartite deal with the government.
The ICTSI Foundation-led procurement is expected to bring around seven to eight million doses of Moderna vaccines to be arriving in late May or June, but definitely within the third and fourth quarters this year.
Meanwhile, Dominguez clarified that the DOH will not exclude sin product manufacturers, like cigarette and beer companies, as well as soft-drinks and infant milk makers from participating in the government’s vaccination rollout.
Dominguez issued the clarification after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. tweeted last Thursday, March 18, that the DOH was preparing an administrative order against certain industries.
Locsin disclosed that the DOH was planning to prohibit tobacco, milk, sugar and soda companies from procuring and donating COVID-19 vaccines to their employees and the government.
But finance chief told reporters last Friday, March 19, that “this issue has been addressed,” referring to Locsin’s Twitter comments.