'Fund scientists, researchers:' Duterte told to divert P10-M reward for COVID-19 vaccine

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 22 2020 04:08 PM

MANILA - Instead of offering a P10 million reward money for the production of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), President Rodrigo Duterte must allocate the fund for research and development and public health programs, a lawmaker said Wednesday. 

Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Representative France Castro said Duterte must divert the budget "to research and development to aid scientists in their quest to find a vaccine [against] COVID-19."

"President Duterte giving a P10 million reward for any Filipino who will discover the COVID-19 vaccine yet his administration has not provided enough budget for scientists, researchers and health facilities to adequately face the battle against COVID-19," Castro said.

Of the P4.1 trillion budget, 36 percent was set aside for education, healthcare, housing, and social welfare, Duterte had said in January.

Another 29 percent will be used to fund infrastructure, tourism, trade, job generation, and agriculture projects, while 11 percent will be allotted for debt servicing, Duterte then said.

Castro said the overall budget for the Department of Science and Technology was "a minimal P20.27 billion" while the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development under the DOST only has a budget of P642 million. 

He added that the Department of Health for Epidemiology and Surveillance Program had budget cuts, from P262,997,000 in 2019 to P115,501,000 for 2020. 

"Now more than ever, the Duterte administration should impose systematic medical solutions and put in funding for research and development programs now rather than promising a grant to scientists and researchers after discovering a vaccine to COVID-19," Castro added. 

Castro also likened the reward strategy to a military tactic.

Malacañang announced the reward money for the vaccine production on Tuesday, as Philippines saw a continued rise in the number of COVID-19 cases. 

The world has yet to find a vaccine and cure for the rapidly spreading COVID-19 but there are drugs being tested worldwide as possible treatment for the respiratory disease.

Aside from the reward money, Roque said President Duterte will also offer a "substantial grant" to the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital for the development of a vaccine.

The President had previously said the Philippines is ready to participate in clinical trials and medical studies of potential vaccines and medicines for COVID-19.- With reports from Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News