Duterte seeks establishment of PH vaccine institute as legacy to Filipinos

Published March 30, 2021, 5:47 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

In a bid to lessen the country’s reliance on vaccines abroad, President Duterte is eyeing the establishment of an institute that will develop and manufacture life-saving vaccines in the Philippines.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presides over a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members prior to his talk to the people at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on March 29, 2021. (KING RODRIGUEZ / PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO)

The proposed formation of a vaccine institute will be the President’s legacy to the nation before ending his six-year term next year, according to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque.

Roque said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has already been directed to allocate funds for the creation of the vaccine facility.

“This is the instruction now na the DBM should have a substantial amount of funding available so we can establish a vaccine institute to enable us to manufacture our own vaccines,” he said during a press briefing aired on state television Tuesday, March 30.

“He wants to leave that as a legacy na siya ang nagpatayo ng Vaccine Institute nang sa ganoon hindi na tayo umaasa sa mga inaangkat na mga bakuna (to establish a vaccine institute so we don’t always rely on imported vaccines),” Roque added.

The President, in a televised address Monday, admitted having difficulty in the country’s vaccine procurement as some nations were cornering most of the world’s thin supply. 

Duterte, usually known for his tough and brash behavior, this time conceded that vaccine procurement was so hard that it already brought him into tears. He felt like passing through “purgatory” as he struggled to bring relief to the people during the pandemic.

Duterte also said the government was trying its best to secure more vaccines for Filipinos as he appealed for patience and understanding.

“We are not a vaccine-producing country. Wala tayong expertise, wala tayong knowledge, medical-scientific knowledge so naghihintay tayo (so we’re waiting for supply),” he added.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the President mentioned his aspiration for the country to have its own vaccine facility during the meeting with some top government officials Monday.

Galvez, in the same televised press briefing, said Duterte told Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado “to allocate money in order for us to be capable of producing the vaccine.”

“Ang sinabi niya, napaka-intimate iyong pagkakasabi niya sa amin is (He told us intimately: ‘Even though I am not anymore the President, I want to solve the problem of the Philippines in terms of really securing and eliminating the disease that we have,'” Galvez said, recalling the President’s words.

“Alam naman ng Presidente na talagang ang Pilipinas ang dami nating kailangang (The President knows that the Philippines need a huge supply of) vaccine not only for COVID-19 but also to other fatal diseases that we have right now),” he added.