Duterte leaves distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to military

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 31 2020 10:22 AM | Updated as of Jul 31 2020 03:51 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on July 30, 2020. Robinson Niñal Jr./Presidential Photo

MANILA-- President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday the Philippine military will be the "implementing arm" of the country's coronavirus immunization program as the government hopes to acquire a vaccine by December.

Duterte, in a taped address, said he would let the Armed Forces of the Philippines distribute vaccines, once these are made available. 

"Ngayon, sino ang magdala nito? Military. Military lang," the President said of the planned immunization program.

(Now, who will carry this? Military. Only the military)

"I suggest that we let the military assign so many of the soldiers, so many of the policeman. Punta lang kayo ospital may mga military doon, punta lang kayo mga police station, mga pulis," he added.

(Just go to the hospital, there is the military there. Go to the police station, there are policemen.)

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The President has tapped retired military generals to lead the country's pandemic response, including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Peace Process Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr, and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.

Duterte is pinning his hopes on China for a vaccine by December since Chinese firms are responsible for 2 of the 3 most advanced coronavirus vaccines that had entered Phase 3 trials, or large-scale testing on humans -- the last step before regulatory approval.

"Ang una nga makuha siguro natin from China," he said, noting that China's Sinopharm and Sinovac have reported progress in their inactive vaccines.

The Philippines as of Thursday has 89,374 confirmed COVID-19 infections, of which, 22,327 are active.