PRIVATE SECTOR TO SECURE 2M DOSES: Loans to fund P73B vaccine budget

    P486B COVID fund released. A worker gets tested for the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The Philippines is close to concluding talks with Britain’s AstraZeneca for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines. (Photo by RHOY COBILLA)

    The country’s finance chief has identified three sources for its planned P73.2 billion coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine fund, that will allow the government to vaccinate 60 million Filipinos against the coronavirus, the Department of Finance (DOF) said in a statement yesterday.

    In his report to President Duterte at a televised meeting in Davao City Monday night, Carlos Dominguez, DOF secretary, said the estimates were based on an average vaccine cost of P1,200 per person.

    Dominguez informed the President the funding sources include multilateral institutions such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, from which the government can obtain around P40 billion through “low-cost, long-term loans.”

    The government is also tapping P20 billion from domestic government financial institutions such as the Land Bank of the Philippines, Development Bank of the Philippines and government-owned and controlled corporations, Dominguez said.

    The finance chief said the remaining P13.2 billion will be sourced from bilateral negotiations with countries from where the vaccines would originate, such as the United States and the United Kingdom.

    “The total is about P73.2 billion financing—that is pretty much almost fixed. Most of it is already fixed. P13.2 billion is not yet completely negotiated,” Dominguez said during the televised meeting with the President.

    With the government estimating the average cost of a complete vaccine dose at $25 per person, or about P1,200 each, Dominguez said the amount of P73.2 billion will be enough to inoculate 60 million people in the country.

    “Some are lower, some are higher so we don’t know exactly how much is the cost,” he said
    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, in a briefing on Tuesday, assured the public the country would not suffer from the billions worth loans that the government is acquiring since they are payable for several years and with low interests.

    He said the loan from the World Bank for instance is payable in 30 years at close to zero interest rate.

    Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. in the meeting on Monday night said the government is securing commitments from AstraZeneca and Pfizer and China’s Sinovac.

    Galvez said negotiations with AstraZeneca cover about 20 million doses at $5 or less per dosage and they are doubling efforts to complete talks and sign a memorandum of understanding by November 30.

    Francisco Duque, Department of Health (DOH) secretary, said during the meeting inoculating 60 million Filipinos may enable the country to reach “herd immunity,” based on pronouncements from the World Health Organization (WHO).

    “Herd immunity” is a vaccination term in which a population becomes protected from a particular virus after reaching a threshold or certain number of vaccinated people.

    Duque said that according to WHO, herd immunity can be acquired if 60 to 70 percent of the population is vaccinated, which means that with 60 million inoculated Filipinos the country would “pretty much arrest the spread” of the virus.

    Duterte said during the meeting that the country’s poorest population, and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police will be among those to be given priority in the would-be government’s COVID-19 immunization drive.
    Parallel move

    Meanwhile, Galvez said the government is also coordinating with the private sector for a tripartite agreement with AstraZeneca.

    Christian Gonzalez, executive vice president of International Container Terminal Services Inc., in a briefing on Tuesday, said the tri-party agreement between the governments of the Philippines and the United Kingdom, AstraZenica and the private firms from the Philippines covers at least two million doses of vaccine for the country.

    He said the Razon Group, Banco De Oro and the team of Presidential Adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion are involved in the talks.

    Gonzalez said they are hoping to raise this to three million to five million.

    “Private sector will shoulder the cost not only of the 50 percent deposit for the AstraZeneca vaccine but likewise the remaining 50 percent once the vaccine is there which is expected to be some time in the second quarter of 2021,” he said.

    Gonzalez said 50 percent of the vaccines to be bought from AstraZeneca will go to the DOH for equitable distribution of the vaccine which would be determined by the government, while the remaining 50 percent will be for the use of the private firms like such as their employees and frontliners in the ports.

    Gonzalez said as production expands, “not only will you have more corporates coming in just to support the government in this tri-party agreement but also more people participating from a commercial point of view when the vaccine becomes commercially available,” he said.

    He said AstraZeneca has released very good findings in terms of efficacy . but is also probably one of the cheaper vaccines on the market, which makes it very very accessible, and one of the easiest to move around and very suitable for for the logistical environment of the Philippines.

    Fund releases hit P486B

    Meanwhile, the government’s fund releases for its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response has reached P486.07 billion, data released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed.

    The DBM data posted on its website showed that the said amount accounts for total COVID-19 allotments to agencies as of November 20, 2020.

    According to the DBM, of the said amount, P386.14 billion was released under Bayanihan 1.
    Meanwhile, almost P7.58 billion was released in the period between the implementation of Bayanihan 1 and 2, while the remaining P92.35 billion is under Bayanihan 2.

    The three agencies that accounted for the largest shares are the Departments of Social Welfare and Development with P217.42 billion, Finance with P100.2 billion and Health with P73.23 billion.

    In terms of funding source, P301.61 billion came from discontinued programs, activities, and projects; P21.01 billion from the regular agency budget; P108.81 billion from special purpose funds and P54.64 billion were certified by the Bureau of the Treasury as excess revenue collections and unutilized automatic appropriations.