MANILA - Health Sec. Francisco Duque III on Monday called on the public to trust government officials, amid controversies surrounding the Duterte administration's purchase of vaccines against COVID-19.
Duque, in a public briefing, defended the non-disclosure agreement that the Philippine government has with China's Sinovac Biotech for the procurement of its COVID-19 vaccine, despite public clamor for transparency.
"Hindi po talaga kami pwede magsalita kung magkano 'yung mga figures o 'yung halaga, 'yung mga data, 'yung volume. 'Yun lang po masasabi ko," he said.
(We can't really disclose the vaccines' price, figures, date or volume. That's all I can say.)
He said government officials involved in the country's procurement of COVID-19 vaccines are "doing their best".
"Sa akin lang po, pagkatiwalaan naman po natin ang mga opisyal ng ating gobyerno dahil talaga naman pong ipinaglalaban ang interes ng mamamayan at interes po ng gobyerno," he said.
(For me, let's trust our government officials who are really fighting for the interest of the public and the government.)
The Philippines has secured at least 25 million doses of the Chinese vaccine.
The public and lawmakers have questioned the government's preference for Sinovac's vaccine, CoronaVac, even as better-rated and less expensive vaccines are already available.
Malacañang claimed that China offered the Philippines the CoronaVac vaccine at "best friend forever" price, even though Senate finance committee chair Sen. Sonny Angara had said they cost around P3,600 per 2 jabs.
Data shows that the Sinovac vaccine is the second most expensive, after US-based Moderna's product, which is estimated to cost between P3,904.00 to P4,504.00.
Pfizer's ranks third, at P2,379.00, followed by Gamaleya's P1,220.00, COVAX facility's P854.00, Astrazeneca's P610.00, and Novavax' P366.00.
Researchers said CoronaVac only showed 50.4 percent efficacy in a late-stage trial in Brazil.
Duque, who has been embroiled in multiple corruption scandals, was accused earlier of "dropping the ball" after the Philippines failed to secure Pfizer's vaccines, which have showed at least 94 percent efficacy.