President Rodrigo Duterte prefers a government-to-government approach in buying a potential Chinese vaccine against the COVID-19 disease, fearing that transacting with private firms may result in anomalies.
He instructed Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to ensure that the country’s negotiating team would look to settle a government-to-government deal.
“We will not beg. We will pay for the vaccine. I want a government-to-government transaction. No corruption. I’m offering it to China because they have it already,” Duterte said in a taped speech aired Tuesday.
He made the statement even as Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon expressed concern over the government’s lack of a coronavirus vaccine distribution plan to ensure immediate access to the eventual COVID-19 vaccines.
“It worries us that we have not heard of any plan that the government has undertaken to ensure that the country will get immediate access to COVID-19 vaccines,” Drilon said in a statement on Tuesday.
“A paltry budget of P2.5 billion for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines for next year does not give us comfort either.”
Duterte says he doesn’t want the vaccine procurement arrangement where the government directly buys from pharmaceutical companies.
“To the Chinese government, you need not look for partners, we can make it government-to-government,” he said.
Duterte said that while China and Russia appeared to be ahead in the vaccine race, any country submitting the best offer could be chosen.
“I just want a clear picture of how we should go about it. But my sense, Secretary Duque, is that it should be a government-to-government transaction because it will be good,” Duterte said.
He did not specify which Chinese firm he was talking about.
China’s Sinovac Biotech may start late-stage trials of its vaccine in the Philippines as early as next month, with the drugs agency evaluating its application.
Philippine authorities are also evaluating the COVID-19 vaccines of Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen for late-stage trials, and are in talks with drug maker Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. as potential suppliers.