MANILA — Private firms that want to import COVID-19 vaccines are still required to enter a tripartite deal with the national government, Malacañang said on Tuesday, clarifying a recent remark from President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte on Monday night ordered that the private sector be allowed to import COVID-19 vaccines "at will."
"Maski magkano o ilan ang gusto nilang ipasok okay sa akin," he said in a televised speech.
(Whatever the cost, whatever the volume they want to bring in, it's fine with me.)
Recapping the President's pronouncement, his spokesman Harry Roque said, "Lilinawin ko lang po, ang pag-aangkat po ay sa pamamagitan pa rin ng tripartite agreement."
(I'll just clarify, the importation will still be through a tripartite agreement.)
He said COVID-19 shots are only cleared for emergency use and none are for commercial use yet.
"Importante pa rin po ang lagda ng gobyerno dahil nga po doon sa indemnity provision ng ating batas... na kung mayroon pong side effects, gobyerno pa rin ang magbabayad," he said in a press briefing.
(The signature of the government is still important because of the indemnity provision of our law, that if there are side effects, the government would pay.)
Malacañang last week said all private firms are allowed to procure COVID-19 vaccines through an amendment on the implementing rules and regulations of the COVID-19 vaccination law.
Asked how this law is different from the President's Monday directive, Roque said, "Pareho lang po."
(It's the same.)
"Pinabibilis lang iyong process. Hindi na kinakailangan sumama sa pederasyon, hindi na kinakailangan sumama sa organisasyon. Kung isang kumpanya gustong bumili para sa empleyado, pipirmahan po natin ang kanilang tripartite agreement," he added.
(The process is just fast-tracked. Joining a federation or organization is no longer necessary. If a company wants to buy vaccines for its employees, we will sign their tripartite agreement.)
Some local government units and private firms earlier signed a supply deal with national authorities for 17 million doses of Britain's AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
The Philippines has struggled to secure vaccine supplies, with an inventory of 2.525 million doses, mostly of Sinovac Biotech's vaccine, 1 million of which arrived on Monday.
At least 668,018 health care workers so far have received their first of two COVID-19 shots. The government aims to inoculate 70 million people this year. Health experts say a surge in infections underscores the need to expedite the national vaccination drive.
The country recorded 10,016 new infections on Monday, bringing the overall tally to 731,894, with deaths at 13,186, one of the highest caseloads in Asia.
— With a report from Reuters