Palace steps into Locsin-Duque 'infighting' over syringe deal

Published December 14, 2021, 2:47 PM

by Raymund Antonio

Reports about the infighting between Foreign Affairs chief Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III have reached the Office of the President (OP), a Palace official confirmed on Tuesday, Dec. 14.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles (PNA / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

In his virtual presser, Cabinet Secretary and acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles said that he will give updates on the issues raised by both Cabinet secretaries.

Although the issue has already reached the President’s office, this was not discussed “per se” during the Talk to the People on Monday, Dec. 13.

“Asahan po ninyo na kami po, tayo po, ay magkakaroon tayo ng updates at mabibigyan din ng linaw ang lahat ng ito sa susunod na pagkakataon (You can expect that we, all of us, will have updated and clarifications about it next time),” Nograles said.

This stemmed from Locsin’s tweet on Saturday, Dec. 11, wherein he claimed Duque “dropped the ball again” on a deal that would’ve delivered 50 million syringes from the United States.

READ: COVID vax donation from US: ‘We dropped the ball again’, says Locsin

The proposed syringe donation would have helped the country’s nationwide vaccination program. It can be remembered that the government originally planned to vaccinate 15 million people in the first phase of its Bayanihan Bakunahan held from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 but it lowered the goal to nine million because of the lack of syringes.

“Far as I’m concerned it’s finished; but if you want a fight, Ph DOH’s offer of 4.7 cents a syringe is hallucinatory; no one on the planet makes special Pfizer low dead volume syringes that cheap; 7 cents is the absolute lowest. UNICEF pays double. Make all purchases public,” Locsin said in the tweet.

Duque answered back that Locsin has no basis for the accusation and that the Foreign Affairs chief wanted to increase the approved contract budget to meet the supplier’s demand.

The Health secretary said he will talk to President Duterte about the claims.

But Locsin reacted to the denial, saying that he was assured that the matter was being handled professionally.

Instead, he claimed that it was given to a junior staff, adding that he does not want the Duterte administration’s reputation to be tarnished.

READ: Locsin hits back at Duque: ‘Don’t ever question my motives’

It was also Locsin who, in December 2020, bared that the government missed out on a chance to secure 10 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine because “someone dropped the ball.”

Senator Panfilo Lacson, citing conversations with Manila’s envoy to Washington, said that Duque missed out on the signing of the Confidentiality Disclosure Agreement (CDA) with Pfizer.

If the doses were secured and delivered in January 2021, health groups said the vaccines would have been used to protect health care workers. Instead, it was only in early March that the country’s vaccination program began inoculating medical frontliners.