Finance eyes P39B fund from WB, ADB for vaccine program

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    The Department of Finance (DOF) has started negotiating with the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for at least $800 million, or about P39 billion, in funds for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination program, the agency said in a statement yesterday.

    During Monday’s hearing of the Senate committee of the whole, Mark Dennis Joven, DOF undersecretary, said this will be done through a project loan, with the Department of Health (DOH) as implementing agency.

    The financing support from the ADB and the WB carries low interest rates, with an average maturity period of at least 10 years, Joven said.

    “The budget is cut in two parts. It’s P70 billion plus P12.5 billion. The P70 billion along with the COVAX contribution would be sufficient to fund around 140 million doses of vaccines,” Joven said.

    Joven was referring to the COVAX Facility, a global initiative that brought together governments and vaccine manufacturers, including 64 high-income economies, to ensure the fair and equitable access of all participating countries to COVID-19 vaccines.

    The Philippines is part of the COVAX facility, which guarantees it access to vaccine doses for at least 20 percent of its population.

    The remaining P12.5 billion of the P82.5 billion COVID-19 vaccine budget will be spent on ancillary requirements such as materials, rollout, storage, distribution and other logistical and support services, Joven said.

    He said early computations done by the DOF involves a phased rollout of the vaccine doses.

    However, a faster rollout period to cover more segments of the population will require additional funds, he said.

    “It depends on how fast the rollout is. A faster rollout would necessitate more funds. Of course, we would appreciate it if Congress can consider increasing the budget so far as this rollout or ancillary services is considered,” Joven said.

    Carlos Dominguez, finance secretary, earlier said the DOF has “in place” P75 billion of the P82.5 billion budget required to provide vaccines to around 55 percent of the population.

    Of the P82.5 billion, the amount of P2.5 billion forms part of the DOH budget under the 2021 General Appropriations Act, while P10 billion will come from the funds allocated for the COVID-19 vaccination program under Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan To Recover As One Act, Dominguez said.

    The remaining P70 billion will be sourced from loans provided by multilateral lenders, the Philippines’ bilateral partners and/or the domestic market, he added.

    The DOF is processing around P62.5 billion through loans with multilateral banks to procure COVID-19 vaccines for adult Filipinos, Dominguez said.

    These multilateral institutions include the ADB, WB and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), he said.

    According to Dominguez, the government is targeting to inoculate between 50 to 70 million adult Filipinos aged 18 years old and above.

    “We have 110 million Filipinos. Of the 110 million, around 40 million are below the ages of 18 and it is not recommended that teenagers and below get the vaccine. So, you knock off 40 million out of 110 million. That leaves you 70 million Filipinos potentially to vaccinate,” he earlier said.

    The COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use so far are only allowed for adults aged 18 years old and above, as there are no clinical trials yet involving children.

    At P1,300 per person, the government would be able to inoculate roughly 57 to 60 million Filipinos out of the 70 million that need to be vaccinated, Dominguez said.

    “That leaves you 13 million people. We expect the 13 million to be covered by the local government units, the private sector, and of course, there are the recusants—the guys who don’t believe in vaccination,” he added.

    “We are going to be covered and I think we will be able easily now, with the resources that we have raised, to vaccinate 60 million Filipinos,” he said. (A. Celis)