PH eyes $325 million more in loans from ADB for COVID-19 vaccines

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 22 2020 11:52 PM

PH eyes $325 million more in loans from ADB for COVID-19 vaccines 1
Asian Development Bank. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Philippines is seeking $325 million (P15.6 billion) more in loans from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to finance its planned 60 million COVID-19 vaccine roll out in 2021.

ADB country director for PH Kelly Bird said Tuesday it is in close coordination with Department of Finance and Department of Health to finalize the loan package, which is on top of the recently approved $9.4 billion pipeline for the country. 

The vaccine procurement loan can even be extended to as much as $500 million, according to Bird, and will be made available via the ADB’s Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility (APVAX) which was approved and announced on December 11. 

APVAX provides funding for vaccine procurement and logistics costs to support ADB’s developing members.

ADB said there is no issue on whether the Philippines can pay the loan on time.

“The PH has a very strong fiscal situation coming into the crisis… they have a fiscal program that was announced a few months back for 2021 and 2022. The debt levels are increasing, I understand would be around 54 -58 percent of GDP around 2022. So that's still relatively low for a country that has a triple B plus rating," Bird said.

The DOF and Malacañang had repeatedly said the vaccination program will be sourced from multilateral sources, such as the ADB. 

In November, Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez III announced P40 billion earmarked for vaccine procurement will be sourced through multilateral loans with the ADB and/or the World Bank; the remaining P20 billion from domestic financing (Landbank, Development Bank of the Philippines, government-owned or -controlled corporation), and P13.2 billion from bilateral partnerships. 

So far, the Philippines has only assured stockpile of vaccines of 2.6 million doses from British drugmaker AstraZeneca worth around P700 million, through the efforts of the private sector, as government continues to grapple for the much sought-after coronavirus vaccines. 

Vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. expressed optimism on Monday contracts with vaccine manufacturers Novavax and AstraZeneca may be inked before yearend to meet government’s 60-million vaccine distribution target to achieve “herd immunity” under WHO guidelines.

Galvez said entering into the negotiating table, PH has consistently pushed for a no-cash advance deal.

Aside from funds allocated for vaccine procurement, Malacañang said Monday some P12.5 billion in “peripheral funds” and savings can be used for logistical and other expenses related to the vaccination program. 

President Rodrigo Duterte dodged criticisms anew of the country's failure to secure government-initiated COVID-19 vaccines, such as the supposed botched deal with Pfizer, as opposed to its neighboring countries.

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