Press Release
November 19, 2020

Low budget for vaccines, to be bought by agency "auto-immune to efficiency"

Proposed funding in the 2021 national budget for the purchase and delivery of coronavirus vaccine will cover only 1 in 5 Filipinos, and that is based on the tentative price of the cheapest vaccine being developed, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said today.

Compounding the lack of funds are cold chain supply challenges and a purchasing agency which Recto describes as "auto-immune to efficient procurement."

"So the entire process from budgeting, purchase, storage, delivery is fraught with challenges, but I am optimistic that we as a nation can pull it off," Recto said.

But to ensure the success of the "largest social mobilization of our race in history", we have to point out the challenges every step of the way because "truth, if unspoken, is the recipe for failure."

"So our first gentle reminder is kulang ang pondo," Recto said.

"I think Senator Pia's brilliant responses to my queries on the floor have laid out the deficiencies for all of us to see and be worried about," Recto said.

Cayetano said that based on the costing of the DOH, the cheapest vaccine, the one developed by AztraZeneca, will cost P610 per person and the most expensive is the one from Chinese Sinopharm, at around P17,690 per person for two doses.

But injecting the vaccine requires other costs, from PPEs to cold chain equipment and vehicles, as the vaccine must be kept in sub-zero temperatures, Cayetano added.

Asked by Recto how much the ballpark cost would be in vaccinating 24 million Filipinos, Cayetano estimated it at P22 billion, to cover vaccine price, supply chain expense, PPEs of health workers and post-vaccination surveillance.

At this costing, Recto said the P18 billion earmarked in the 2021 budget will only be enough for "19 million plus Filipinos, so we will have a long way to go. Paano yung 90 million?"

"The other revealing thing in Senator Pia's response is mukhang at this point, mahal ang Made-in-China vaccine. Sana bumaba pa. Global talaga dapat ang paghahanap. Not all roads lead to Beijing," Recto said.

But Recto said the "Kilometer One in the vaccine journey for Filipinos" is its international sourcing and purchase, "and on this, the designated buyer has institutional handicaps which do not inspire us."

Recto was referring to the Philippine International Trading Corp., a DTI-attached body which has logged delays in the delivery of goods other government agencies have tasked it to buy.

Under the vaccine procurement plan approved by the economic managers, the government will borrow money from the Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines, give it to PITC who shall do the buying, and then the PITC will turn over the vaccines to IATF and the DOH.

"So brokerage-type, zigzag-way of buying," he said.

"Nang tinanong ko kahapon sa floor kung pwede ba zero commission sila, kung pwede nilang i-waive ang 1-4 percent na service fee, ayaw. Iginiit ang one percent nila. So if 50 billion ang ibibigay sa kanilang pambili, ang kita nila sa "pasabuy" na ito ay P500 million," Recto said.

"The rationale for that fee is it is for efficiency and as reward for possibly haggling down the price and getting more bang for the buck. But if delivery is delayed by years, then what is the fee for?"

One example is the fire stations the PITC has yet to deliver as part of the P3.27 billion worth of supplies, materials and buildings it was tasked to procure for the Bureau of Fire Protection.

News Latest News Feed