Senate earmarks P83B for COVID-19 vaccine purchase, distribution in 2021 budget

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 26 2020 09:20 PM

Small bottles labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken taken April 10, 2020. Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File

MANILA - The Senate on Thursday allocated P83 billion for the purchase, storage, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines next year, much higher than the Department of Budget and Management's proposed P2.5 billion fund for immunization against the highly contagious disease.

The House of Representatives initially increased the amount to P8 billion, while the Senate included as unprogrammed appropriations P54 billion for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines and another P21 billion for its "storage, transportation and distribution."

"We are setting aside a huge amount in unprogrammed appropriations for their purchase," Senate Committee on Finance chair Sonny Angara said in plenary.

But funds for items labeled as "unprogrammed allocations" may only be released should the government exceed its target revenues for the year, according to the Commission on Audit.

In September, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the Philippines has already exceeded this year's estimated P2.2-trillion tax revenue as early as August.

"We are above it by 8 percent," Dominguez told senators during the Department of Finance's (DOF) budget hearing in the Senate.

In 2021, the Department of Finance expects to collect P2.71 trillion in taxes as the Philippines continues to ease economic restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

The national government is expected to sign a deal with British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca for the purchase of 2 million COVID-19 vaccines, immunication czar Carlito Galvez said.

AstraZeneca's vaccine is seen to be the least expensive among frontrunners as it is priced at 2.5 euros (P143) per dose. 

The private sector is also expected to procure up to 3 million vaccine doses from the same pharmaceutical firm, presidential adviser on entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said.

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