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Duterte’s remarks won’t affect talks with US firms on COVID-19 vaccine supply — Palace

The Philippines will continue its negotiations with American companies for the possible purchase of vaccines against COVID-19 despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s criticism of Western developers who allegedly asked for advance payment.

Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque gave the assurance on Tuesday, a day after the President slammed the “profit, profit, profit” mindset of Western companies by asking for a reservation fee.

“Wala naman pong epekto ‘yan. We continue to negotiate with everyone. The President wants to ensure na magkakaroon tayo ng vaccine kahit sino pa unang maka-develop niyan,” Roque said in a televised briefing.

The Palace official said the Philippines will continue its membership in the Gavi COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, which aims to ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines.

Last week, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the government had initial talks with US drugmaker Pfizer.

She also said the government is looking at entering into a confidentiality agreement with Moderna, another American firm that is developing a COVID-19 vaccine.

The President said on Monday that he would prioritize securing vaccine supply from Russia and China provided that their vaccine is “as good as any other in the market.”

A total of P2.5 billion will be allocated for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines under the proposed national budget for 2021. The amount would fund the immunization of around 3.8 million poor Filipinos, according to Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado.

In July, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said around P20 billion may be needed to vaccinate 20 million people. — RSJ, GMA News