Duterte wants government-to-government deal for COVID-19 vaccine
President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday he would favor a government-to-government approach for the procurement of the potential vaccine against the COVID-19 disease to prevent corruption, adding that Manila would not beg other nations for access to vaccines.
"Hindi kami maghingi (we will not beg). We will pay [for the vaccine]. Maganda sana, government-to-government ang transaction. Walang corruption, wala lahat kasi government-to-government. I'm offering it to China kasi mayroon na sila (they have it already)," he said in a taped speech aired Tuesday.
"I hate iyong--ayoko iyong private persons, magbili tayo sa private Chinese businessmen. D'yan magkakaloko-lokohan," he added.
(I hate the--I don't like transactions with private persons, procurement from private Chinese businessmen. That's where fooling around happens.)
The Philippines, with its more than 108 million people and among the highest number of COVID-19 infections in Asia, is considered as both a suitable location for clinical trials and a large market for global vaccine manufacturers.
Duterte said that while China and Russia appeared to be ahead in the vaccine race, any country that submitted the best offer could be chosen.
China's Sinovac Biotech may start late-stage trials of its vaccine in the Philippines as early as next month, with the drugs agency evaluating its application.
Philippine authorities are also evaluating COVID-19 vaccines of Russia's Gamaleya Research Institute and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen for late-stage trials and in talks with drugmaker Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc as potential suppliers.
Australia's Vaxine Pty Ltd has also expressed interest in holding a clinical trial.
The Philippines has initially allotted $400 million to buy 40 million doses for 20 million Filipinos, as part of Duterte's plan to inoculate majority of the population.
With 371,630 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 7,039 deaths, the Philippines has the second-highest number of infections and fatalities in Southeast Asia, just behind Indonesia.
Duterte also extended partially relaxed coronavirus curbs in the capital, the country's hotspot, by another month to the end of November. Schools remain closed while social distancing is imposed in public places and on mass transport. - With a report from Reuters
Watch part of Duterte's speech here.