President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Monday, January 18 assured the public that government transactions to purchase coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines are free from corruption.
In his public address on government’s COVID-19 interventions, President Duterte vouched for the public service record of vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr, explaining his negotiations with pharmaceutical companies to procure vaccines involve no personal or direct control of money but are purely paperwork.
“All that Galvez can do is just to come to an agreement as representative or agent of the Republic of the Philippines. He has no say sa bayaran kung saan because it is purely papel,” the President said of Galvez.
“Kunin ng manufacturer ‘yan doon sa mga bangko kasi doon tayo naghiram at diretso ang bayad galing bangko to the manufacturer. Hindi na tayo makialam diyan. And the pricing and the paper will not be final until it is reviewed by the Secretary of Finance kasi siya ‘yung magbayad pati ako,” he added.
President Duterte also brushed off allegations that the government is controlling the prices of the COVID-19 vaccine, saying manufacturers set their prices based on the law of supply and demand.
Galvez, for his part, said the financial institutions that will procure vaccines for the Philippines have very stringent transparency and anti-corruption regulation that leave no room for disadvantageous deals.
For instance, Galvez said the Asian Development Bank (ADB) can easily spot disadvantageous transactions considering its diverse structure.
“Malalaman at malalaman po nila dahil kasi ‘yung deal po ng vaccine, lahat po ng deals ng mga vaccine loans sa different countries malalaman po nila kung disadvantaged po tayo,” Galvez said.
“Wala po tayong hinahawakan na pera. Ang pera po, ang magbabayad po bangko. Alam po natin ang transaction ng bangko talagang malinis po ‘yan. Kumbaga sa ano, hindi po tayo makaka — makaka ano, magkakaroon ng tinatawag nating corruption because of the World Bank integrity at saka po ‘yung Asian Development Bank,” he further said.
In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and Gavi made an agreement with pharmaceutical companies supplying COVID-19 vaccines to maintain a “no profit, no loss principle” despite embarking on an investment risk.
Pharmaceutical companies have then offered discounts and cheaper alternatives to countries who wish to purchase the vaccines, Galvez said.
“Katulad po ng Sinovac, in-offer-an po tayo ng filling station. Pagka filling station po, kalahati dapat ang babayaran lang natin dahil tayo po ang magfi-finish. Raw materials dadalhin dito, tayo na po ang magfi-filling station,” he explained.
“Pangalawa po, pagka ‘yung product kukunin mo sa manufacturer, mas mura po ‘yon kaysa ‘yung China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS). Iyong tinatawag na CIF ‘yon pong doon po magkakaroon ng ano, ng turnover doon sa airport na po natin. So ibig sabihin, mura po pagka tayo pa ang kukuha kasi ‘yung freight po is 2.5 (dollars) at saka ‘yung storages. Malaki rin po iyan,” he added.
Taking into account all the COVID-19 vaccine brands to be purchased, Galvez said the Philippines has saved $700 million through government deals, noting that the negotiations made by the country have been deliberate and very good.
“In fact po, maipapangako ko po sa ating mga mahal na kababayan na ang lahat ng mga negosasyon at cost, meaning almost no profit,” he said.
Galvez also noted that government’s negotiations to acquire the COVID-19 vaccines are three-tiered involving the following: a confidentiality disclosure agreement (CDA), term sheet, and supply agreement.
The CDA is a legal part of the contract between negotiating parties that define knowledge or information including medical trade secrets, special prices given to a particular country, and other arrangements that shall be kept confidential. A breach in this agreement may lead to the cancellation of vaccine delivery.
Despite the criticism on government’s procurement deals, President Duterte has instructed Galvez to strictly comply with the terms agreed upon with the pharmaceutical companies to ensure the continuity of vaccine supplies.
The Philippines expects to receive the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines in February this year. Sinovac, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Gamaleya are among the pharmaceutical companies that the government is negotiating with.
The Department of Health (DOH) recorded 2,163 new COVID-19 infections on January 18, bringing the total number of cases in the Philippines to 502,736 with 465,988 recoveries and 9,909 deaths. PND