Locsin says ball 'dropped again' this time on 50M syringes

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 12 2021 12:49 AM | Updated as of Dec 12 2021 08:26 AM

MANILA (UPDATE) - Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. on Saturday said the Philippines “dropped the ball again” in its COVID-19 response, this time for losing the opportunity to obtain 50 million syringes.

Locsin has yet to give further details but said in a tweet that the need for the syringes was discussed in Washington DC but that Philippine agencies “refused to discuss” the details.

Last year, Locsin exposed a foiled deal to procure COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer due to an alleged mishandling.

Speculation arose that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III was being referred to, but the latter insisted that the vaccine supply deal with Pfizer was still being worked out at the time.

“We dropped the ball again; this time offer of 50 million syringes. Discussed the need in Washington DC and got a response prepared to go into details with PH agencies but they refused to discuss the ball let alone catch it. First Pfizer, then Moderna. Ok, I see the pattern,” Locsin said in a tweet on Saturday afternoon.

Hours later, he mentioned about the health department's offer to purchase syringes at 4.7 centavos each, which he described as "hallucinatory,” saying no one on makes “special PFIZER LOW DEAD VOLUME SYRINGES that cheap.”

“Far as I'm concerned it's finished; but if you want a fight, Ph DOH's offer of 4.7 cents a syringe is hallucinatory; no one on the planet makes special PFIZER LOW DEAD VOLUME SYRINGES that cheap; 7 cents is the absolute lowest. UNICEF pays double. Make all purchases public,” he said in another tweet.

He said the deal was for the purchase of syringes and not a donation.

“No, purchase; what the f***? you want free? We're not exactly poor as you'd know if you knew what we've been paying for vaccines,” the country's top diplomat said in response to a netizen's comment that the Philippines should just accept the deal if it’s a donation.

He did not address the netizen's remark about naming the head of the involved Philippine agency.

Locsin said he is not expecting anyone to listen to him though, based on his response to Sen. Panfilo Lacson's comment.

“Again? Even if they refuse to appreciate the efforts, at least they should listen to you,” the senator tweeted.

“No, I don't expect anyone of them to listen to me; but now I know not to waste my time with them and embarrass myself that way,” Locsin replied.

A shortage in the country's syringe supply prompted the government to reduce its 15 million target for vaccination during the initial run of the national vaccination drive last Nov. 29 until Dec. 1 (later extended until Dec. 3) to 9 million.

The National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 and National Vaccination Operations Center said last Nov. 27 that the shipment of syringes they bought through UNICEF would be "delayed" due to a global shortage.

"As we are finalizing the preparations for this massive movement across the 16 regions outside Metro Manila, there is currently a shortage in ancillary supplies, particularly syringes, for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines and other logistical challenges," the two agencies said in a statement.

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