Bacolod mayor refuses to pay P98-M balance for Covid-19 vaccines

BACOLOD CITY – Mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez here has refused to pay the P98-million balance for Covid-19 vaccines bought by his predecessor Evelio Leonardia in 2021.

BACOLOD City Mayor Alfredo ‘Albee’ Benitez (right) during a recent press briefing at the Bacolod City Government Center, along with Atty. Lyzander Dilag (center), spokesperson, and Atty. Romeo Carlos Ting Jr. (left) of the City Legal Office. (Photo courtesy of Nanette Guadalquiver)

“You will have to excuse me, but I will try to the best of my ability not to pay,” Benitez told a representative of AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals Philippines Inc. who paid a courtesy call recently and asked the city government to pay the balance.

In January 2021, the administration of Leonardia signed an agreement with AstraZeneca to procure 650,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines for its residents to kick off its vaccination program.

Benitez said that only P65 million was initially paid by the city government.

In a recent press briefing at the Bacolod City Government Center, Benitez cited the report of the City Health Office (CHO) that only 216,000 out of 650,000 doses of the vaccines were fully utilized and delivered while the remaining 434,000 doses were stored at the Department of Health (DOH) storage facility.

Benitez said the city government now is giving booster shots and yet the vaccines were not delivered.

He said the firm’s representative told him that the vaccines were delivered late last year but the city did not accept because they already have enough vaccines.

Thus, almost 300,000 doses of the vaccines have expired, Benitez said.

Benitez said he won’t pay the remaining balance. “We will see how the thing goes. But, I would rather use that money to somehwere else that could be useful for the people,” he added.

Benitez said he already advised the City Legal Office to review the contract of the purchase agreement signed by the city government with the pharmaceutical company.