MANILA-- President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday the government would prioritize the "poorest of the poor" in the Philippines for the COVID-19 immunization program, once a vaccine becomes available.
"Ang mauna, 'yung walang wala at saka of course those in the hospitals, ‘yung mga sick or dying. Ang una talaga 'yung mga tao sa listahan na tumatanggap ng assistance sa gobyerno,” Duterte said in a taped address aired Friday.
(We will prioritize the poorest of the poor, and those who are sick and dying in hospitals. The priority is really those who accept aid from the government.)
The government could provide vaccines for free for the 20 million poorest people in the country, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said.
Once it becomes available, the Philippines can buy at least 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with the help of the Philippine International Trading Corp and financed by the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines, Dominguez said.
Middle-income earners, police officers, and soldiers would also be eligible for free COVID-19 immunization, the President said.
"Pangalawa, ‘yung middle-income. Libre ito. Hindi ko ito ipagbili," Duterte said.
(Second is the middle income. This is for free. I won't sell it.)
"Itong mga military na ito pobre ‘to. Mauna rin kayo. And also my military and my police because I need a strong backbone. The backbone of my administration is the uniformed personnel of government," he added.
(The military is poor. You will also be prioritized.)
The President however apologized to well-off Filipinos, saying they should purchase their own vaccines.
"Itong mga mayaman, huwag na ninyo akong isipin kasi hindi ako nag-iisip sa inyo. Sorry na lang," he said.
(To the rich, don't think of me because I don't think of you. I'm sorry.)
Duterte said he expects things to return to normal by December as he expressed hopes that China could come up with a vaccine by then.
China had earlier pledged to prioritize the Philippines once it develops a COVID-19 vaccine.
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.