MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday reiterated that the money the government borrowed to fund its COVID-19 vaccine rollout is still with the banks.
According to Duterte, the money stays with the lending bank, and the government does not hold any of the money as cold cash.
"The money is still in the hands of the bank, and they collect, 'yung nagpabili sa atin ng bakuna (those that sold us the vaccine), from the bank," he explained.
"It's the bank that will pay, upon our advise, na na-deliver na 'yung bakuna (that the vaccines have been delivered)," Duterte added.
Duterte was reacting to questions about how the government is using its loans, given that the country has only received donated vaccines so far.
Aside from the donated vaccines from China, the country has procured a million doses of Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine, which will be delivered by the end of the month, according to Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr.
"Yung pera na bilyon na bilyon na ibinigay nila sa Kongreso akala nandiyan na sa kamay natin, that it's cold cash. Sinasabi na natin time and again that the money is with the lending bank... still. So we have not used a single centavo," Duterte said.
(The billions in funds that the Congress gave us, they think that's in our hands, that it's cold cash. We have said time and again that the money is with the lending bank...still. So we have not used a single centavo.)
"About the vaccines that we are going to buy, well donated ito lahat sa ngayon...Ngayon itong darating, darating na 'yung babayaran natin. Doon pa dapat sila magtanong kung nasaan na 'yung pera," he added.
(About the vaccines that we are going to buy, well, everything that we have right now are all donated...But the next batch of vaccines that are arriving, those that we paid for will be arriving soon. That's when they should ask where the money is.)
Last week, Senator Panfilo Lacson questioned the pace of government's procurement of COVID-19 vaccines amid billions in pesos in loans that the country has incurred for pandemic response.
Lacson tweeted a list of Philippine loans from various organizations and asked where the vaccines are.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque objected to Lacson's inquiry, saying there is no government official who has access to these funds.
According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the country's outstanding external debt stood at $98.5 billion by end of 2020.
Earlier this month, the Asian Development Bank has approved a $400 million (P24 billion) loan to help the Philippines purchase COVID-19 vaccines.
Despite the hefty loans, the Philippines has the second highest tally of infections and deaths due to the disease in Southeast Asia. It was also the last in the region to secure supplies of COVID-19 vaccines.
The Philippine economy, which suffered its worst contraction since the Second World War, is also seen to recover more slowly than its neighbors.