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Duterte hits critics of COVID-19 response as cases swell

President Rodrigo Duterte once again lambasted critics of the government’s coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response as cases reach an all-time high on Monday.

“It's a classic case of you want to appear white, you paint the other guy black para ang labas mo puting-puti ka. Si Mr. Clean, parang ganoon. Style bulok,” Duterte said in his weekly televised briefing.

Duterte responded to questions raised by Senators Panfilo Lacson and Risa Hontiveros on the country's low vaccine supply despite obtaining billions in loans.

Duterte explained that the loans for the vaccine procurement are still with the lending banks.

“Ang buong akala kasi nila ‘yong pera na bilyon na bilyon na ibinigay nila sa Kongreso, nandiyan na sa kamay natin, that it’s cold cash, nasan na raw ‘yong pera?” Duterte said.

“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 banks and they collect — ’yong nagpabili sa atin ng bakuna —  from the bank, hindi sa atin,” he added.

Earlier, Lacson said Filipinos “might all die waiting” to be inoculated against COVID-19 if the government would not implement drastic and innovative steps in its pandemic response.

Lacson lamented how concerned government agencies seem to be dragging their feet on the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.

Meanwhile, Hontiveros called on the National Task Force Against COVID-19 and the Department of Health to establish a "vaccine tracker" to keep the public informed on the progress being made with the COVID-19 vaccination program.

Hontiveros argued that the public has the right to know the status of the government's COVID-19 vaccination program amid the increasing number of cases.

The country has so far secured $900 million in loans (approximately P43.65 billion) — $400 million from the Asian Development Bank and $500 million from the World Bank — to help fund its purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the country has allocated a total of P82.5 billion for vaccine, logistics and other supplies, including waste disposal, as part of the government's COVID-19 vaccination program.

Of the P82.5 billion, P2.5 billion will come from the budget of the Department of Health; P10 billion from the funds set aside for Bayanihan 2 Act; and P70 billion from various loans and financing.

The loans will come from the World Bank (P24.3 billion); Asian Development Bank (P19.5 billion); and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (P14.6 billion).  The remaining P11.6 billion will come from Official Development Assistance funds.

The country began its COVID-19 vaccination program on March 1 after the arrival of 600,000 doses of donated Sinovac vaccines from China, which was immediately followed by 487,000 vaccine doses from AstraZeneca.

On March 7, another batch of 38,400 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the country.

The said vaccines from AstraZeneca were part of the supply allocated to the Philippines by the global vaccine-sharing COVAX scheme.

The country is expected to receive 1.4 million more Sinovac doses and 979,200 additional AstraZeneca shots this month.

The Department of Health said a total of 336,656 health workers have been vaccinated against COVID-19 as of March 20.

Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. said the vaccination of the general public could begin in April once all 1.7 million health workers have been vaccinated.—LDF, GMA News