Philippines ready to take more loans to fund COVID-19 vaccine

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 14 2020 03:14 PM | Updated as of Dec 15 2020 01:49 AM

Philippines ready to take more loans to fund COVID-19 vaccine 1
A nurse administers the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a man at a vaccination center, on the first day of the largest immunization program in the British history, in Cardiff, Wales, Britain Dec. 8, 2020. Justin Tallis, Pool/Reuters/File

MANILA — The Philippines can take loans to procure vaccines against the novel coronavirus, Malacañang said Monday, following criticisms on supposedly inadequate funding for the inoculation drive next year. 

Vice President Leni Robredo's camp said over the weekend that there seemed to be “no sense of urgency” in the COVID-19 inoculation, given that Sen. Franklin Drilon said that out of the P72.5 billion allotted for vaccines in the national budget, only P2.5 billion had been guaranteed. 

"Sen. Drilon, Vice President, malayo pa po ang eleksyon. Itigil ang pulitika," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in an online press briefing. 

(The election is still far away. Stop the politics.)

"Paulit-ulit na po sinabi natin 'yan, na tayo po ay makakautang na sa multilateral sources, bilateral sources para po sa [P]72.5 billion na kakailanganin," he said. 

(We have repeatedly said that we can get a loan from multilateral sources, bilateral sources for the 72.5 billion that will be needed.)

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The "fund manager and procurement agent" for the Philippines' vaccine supply will be the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to ensure that the process is transparent and free of corruption, said National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. 

The Philippines will use $1 billion from the ADB and borrow more funds from local state banks and corporations for advance market commitments for COVID-19 vaccines, which need to be secured by December and January, he said.

If the 2021 budget that might be released in March is used to get advance deals, "we will be at the tail-end of the supply chain," said Galvez, who is also the country's vaccine czar. 

The national budget will instead be used for "consumables" like syringes and "mobilization," he said.