DFA chief says he did job amid questions on ‘missed’ Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine order

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 16 2020 05:00 PM

MANILA — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Wednesday that he and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez did their job amid questions that the Philippines allegedly “missed the bus” in the race to get the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer.

Asked to confirm who mishandled the order as Locsin had tweeted, Romualdez confirmed that “the usual suspect” dropped the ball but added that the country is working on saving the order.

“Yes the ‘usual suspect’ dropped the ball. We’re working on saving it but most likely the delivery is June next year,” Romualdez told ABS-CBN News in a message. 

Romualdez said that the “most likely delivery” of the vaccines from Pfizer would be in June next year.

Locsin had said on Tuesday that 10 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine were supposedly financed by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and were even set to be shipped through FedEx to Clark in January until “somebody dropped the ball.” 

“Dropped the ball” is an idiomatic expression which refers to the mishandling of matters. 

“Babe & I moving on to more challenges equally brilliantly surmounted,” he added, referring to the envoy.

Because of this, Dr. Tony Leachon, who was a former adviser of the Inter-Agency Task Force against COVID-19, urged Locsin to discuss with President Rodrigo Duterte “who dropped the ball and why we missed the bus.”

“It’s also worrisome why [the] Pfizer vaccine has not been considered for local EUA (emergency use authorization) despite FDA approval in six countries with [the] UK starting vaccination last week,” Leachon said.

But Locsin insisted that the country “did not miss the bus because we were slow to act.”

“Babe and I were fast. Offers poured in. But there are none so slow as those who never had the intention to catch the bus,” he said.

He also vouched for the quality of the vaccine made in China. 

Negotiations with Pfizer ongoing, says Duque

In a press briefing Wednesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said negotiations for the Pfizer vaccine are still ongoing following Locsin’s remarks. 

“There is no such thing as ‘dropping of the ball,’ if you look into the statement, the negotiations are ongoing…. And now our vaccine czar, has also signed a confidentiality disclosure agreement with Pfizer last November,” Duque told reporters. 

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, said it was a Cabinet secretary who had "dropped the ball" in the Philippines' COVID-19 vaccine deal with Pfizer. 

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