THE national government has set aside funds to purchase a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine, but will need more to ensure that every Filipino is vaccinated, President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday night.
In a taped speech, Duterte said he needed more funds because there are now over 113 million Filipinos.
“This I can assure you again na nakahanap na ako ng pera. I have the money already for the vaccine but hahanap pa ako ng maraming pera (but I’m looking for more funds) because you know there are now 113 million Filipinos. And to me, ideally, all should have the vaccine without exception,” he said.
Duterte reiterated that the government would prioritize giving vaccines to the poor listed as cash beneficiaries under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps.
“Again, ang mauna ang mga mahirap na walang pera, hindi makabayad. Ang listahan ‘yung doon sa Pantawid (The first to receive the vaccine will be the poor who can’t pay for the vaccine. We’ll get the list from the Pantawid),” he said.
Next, he said, are the police and military as they were among the front-liners in the fight against COVID-19.
“I want my soldiers pati ‘yung security forces ng bayan mauna rin kasabay ng first batch kasi kailangan ko ng mga sundalo at pulis na ready, healthy at walang Covid (I want my soldiers, including security forces of the people to be among the first batch of recipients because the soldiers and police need to be ready, healthy, and Covid-free). And they are really vital to the security of the state for which reason they should be the first also,” he said.
He said civilians can go last, but noted that he was also willing to be among the first to be inoculated with the vaccine from either China or Russia, who have both committed to provide the country with vaccines once developed.
“Pero kung mag-offer… Ako nagahintay ako tawagin ako ng China or Russia (But if somebody offers…I’m just waiting for China and Russia). I’ll be glad to open up my sleeves and, ‘sige,’ kasi may kumpyansa nga ako,” he said.
Duterte allayed fears over the safety of the Chinese vaccine, saying he trusted their experts.
“So those of you who are asking me kung safe ba itong China (if this vaccine from China is safe)? Well, I can say that China is a modern country and it has all the wherewithal to make its country — whose integrity is fully protected by its achievement,” he said.
He also bared that he had a talk with outgoing Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev about the Russian vaccine SputnikV.
“I just had a talk with the Ambassador of Russia, the outgoing, and we had a serious one-on-one talk and they said that Russia is coming in,” he said.
He said Russia committed to constructing a pharmaceutical plant in the country to produce the vaccines.
If the schedule goes as planned, Duterte said the Philippines could have a vaccine as early as April 2021.
Earlier, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the government can allocate PHP20 billion to buy the vaccine with the help of the Philippine International Trading Corp., the Land Bank of the Philippines, and the Development Bank of the Philippines. Philippine News Agency