MANILA, Philippines — To quash suspicion of corruption in the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday that the money for buying the doses was still in lending banks and not with the government.
This was his answer to Sen. Panfilo Lacson who asked where the COVID-19 vaccines were when there were billions of pesos of government funding for it, the bulk of which is from approved loans sourced from multilateral lenders.
“They thought all the while that the billions granted by Congress were already in our hands — that it’s in cold cash. We have been saying time and again that the money is still with the lending banks,” Duterte said, speaking partly in Filipino, in his weekly pre-recorded briefing.
“If you are afraid of corruption, let your mind go easy because these things are not susceptible to anything. The money is in the hands of the bank and they collect — those who sold us the vaccines — from the bank,” he added.
He said the government would only pay the drug manufacturers once the vaccines had been delivered.
So far, the vaccines currently available the 600,00o doses of CoronaVac, which are made by Sinovac BioTech and donated by the Chinese government, and the 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca from the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility.
The government has only paid for the 15% downpayment for the arriving one million doses purchased from Sinovac BioTech.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III supported Duterte’s statement that COVID-19 vaccine funds were still with the lending banks.
He added that the government had allocated P82.5 billion for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines, with the following breakdown of sources:
Department of Health budget – P2.5 billion
Bayanihan 2 law – P10 billion
World Bank – P24.3 billion
Asia Development Bank – P19.5 billion
Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank – P40.6 billion
Official Development Assistance – P11.6 billion
According to Dominguez, this budget, as well as money from the private sector and another P10 billion from local government units, would be enough to buy vaccines for inoculating all adults in the Philippines for this year.
“It’s still in the bank,” Dominquez said. “We will only withdraw when we pay. Why should we hold the money when we’re going to pay for the interest? So there are more to be delivered. They have not been delivered. The payment is not due. We’ll keep it in the bank first.”