PH to borrow $900-M for booster shots

The Duterte administration is negotiating with the country’s development partners to fund the procurement of booster doses for the coronavirus vaccination next year, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said on late Tuesday, Oct. 5, that the government is talks with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) for about $900 million loans.

Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez III

Dominguez said the Philippine government initiated “exploratory discussions” with the Manila-based, Washington-based and Beijing-based lenders to help determine possible funding sources for additional vaccine requirements in 2022.

“We expect to execute loan agreements towards the end of the year,” Dominguez told reporters.

"The NTF , DOH , and DOF, have initially identified multilateral and bilateral financial institutions as possible sources of funding for this allocation,” he added.

Under the Duterte administration’s proposed 2022 national budget, the government allocated P45.3 billion for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots under unprogrammed appropriations.

Earlier, Vaccine Czar and NTF Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said the Philippines was negotiating with major vaccine makers for the purchase of 90 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines as booster shots to be rolled out in 2022.

According to Galvez, the COVID-19 vaccines are next generation boosters that can provide a higher protection against the emerging variants compared to the available vaccines.

Healthcare workers will be the first ones to be given a booster shot for an added protection against the coronavirus disease, he added.

However, Galvez said the administration of booster shots will begin once a “sizeable amount or percentage” of the threshold is already fully vaccinated or inoculated with their first dose.

For 2021, the DOF had secured $1.2 billion, or around P58.4 billion, for COVID-19 vaccine procurement also from the World Bank, ADB and AIIB.

The three loans were simultaneously approved by the three development lenders in March.

In the case of the ADB, the Philippines secured a $400 million loan under the bank’s Asia Pacific Vaccine Facility.

The Philippines also became the first recipient of ADB financing support amounting to $300 million under the Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility (APVAX), which is co-financed by the Beijing-based AIIB.

Meanwhile, the World Bank’s additional financing of $500 million under the Philippines’ COVID-19 Emergency Response Project—Additional Financing (PCERP-AF) is the largest vaccine support package extended by the Washington-based lender.