PRESIDENT Duterte on Monday night took a swipe at foreign pharmaceutical companies asking the Philippines to make advance payment for vaccines still being developed for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and said he would prioritize buying vaccines from China and Russia.
The President, during his weekly “Talk to the People” address, said some western countries are “all about profit” as some firms asked the country to make “reservation by depositing money cash deposits,” despite the uncertainty of a vaccine being developed.
“You must be crazy,” Duterte said, adding that the country’s procurement law — Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act — also prohibits government from buying products that are not yet available.
He reiterated he prefers to buy COVID-19 vaccines made from China and Russia. He made similar assurances to buy coronavirus vaccines from these countries in his previous national addresses.
Duterte has expressed optimism that the Philippines would be “back to normal” by December, pinning his hopes on the availability of vaccines.
“We will give preference to Russia and China provided that their vaccine is as good as any other in the market,” he said in the televised address.
Any vaccine purchase by the Philippines, however, will have to undergo bidding process, he said.
The Philippine government has had talks with a number of potential vaccine suppliers, including Russia, China, US drugmaker Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc. It also planned to hold talks with Australian biotech giant CSL Ltd.
Duterte singled out China, which he said was unlike other countries seeking “reservation fee” or advance payment.
“The one good thing about China is you do not have to beg, you do not have to plead,” he said. “One thing wrong about the western countries, it’s all profit, profit, profit.”
Moscow and Manila have agreed to work on clinical trials for Russia’s vaccine.
Duterte did not name any pharmaceutical companies seeking advance payment, but he warned their representatives in Manila to go home or “I’ll kick your ass.”
He said the Philippines’ procurement law prohibits the government from buying anything that is non-existent or has yet to be produced.
“They want you to finance their research and the perfection of the vaccine,” he said. “They want cash advance before they deliver the vaccine. If that’s the case, then all of us will die.”
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the President did not specify the company or country that are asking for the cash deposit but noted that firms from the United States and United Kingdom are on the third stage of trials for the vaccines they are developing.
Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said the Philippines signed cooperation agreements with Seqirus from Australia, Gamaleya from Russia, Adimmune from Taiwan, and Sinovac and Sinopharm from China.
The Philippines is also participating in the World Health Organization-led trials on potential vaccines, which may start at the end of October.
Duterte appealed to private hospitals to increase the number of beds dedicated to COVID-19 cases amid the continued increase in the number of infections in the country.
The President said the government needs the support of everyone including the private sector.
The Department of Health last month appealed to the private hospitals to increase their COVID-19 dedicated beds to 30 percent of capacity from 20 percent.
Roque yesterday said that due to efforts to improve the country’s health capacity, the country now has up to 50 percent of the ICU beds available, 56 percent of the isolation beds available, and 52 percent of the ward beds available.
National Task Force Against COVID-19 Carlito Galvez Jr., in a briefing yesterday, said that apart from increasing bed capacity, isolation and quarantine facilities also need to increase as he again pushed for the stop of the practice of home quarantine. He said that the government has so far isolated 24,530 infected patients.
The President advised the public against believing the claims of the critics and opposition about the alleged lapses of government’s efforts to address the COVID-19.
Duterte said some “Dilawan,” continue to make “noise,” but the fact is no one is safe as long as the virus is here.
He said the government has no business to lying to the public about the situation.
“So I hope that everybody would listen to reason. Makinig kayo sa rason. Huwag ‘yang basta na lang maniwala ka na ganito, ganito (So I hope that everybody would listen to reason. Please listen to reason. Do not just believe this and that),” he said. — With Reuters