Press Release
September 8, 2021

Co-Sponsorship Speech of Senator Risa Hontiveros on WTO TRIPS Waiver

Mr. President, dear colleagues, magandang hapon po.

Vaccine inequity is a scandal that must be urgently addressed, and if allowed to persist, it will be an ugly legacy that will haunt us even in the post-pandemic age. The impacts of this inequity are clear:

More than 5.41 billion vaccine shots have been administered worldwide, with 81% in only ten high and upper middle-income countries. Meanwhile, the poorest countries have only received 0.4%.

In six of the ten countries with the highest fatality rates, less than a tenth of their populations were fully vaccinated as of 10 August. In the other four, no more than a third were fully vaccinated.

Developing countries now account for more than 85% of pandemic deaths.

In January, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General (DG) warned, "I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure - and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world's poorest countries".

In view of this, Mr. President, it is an urgent imperative for the Philippines to support the call of India and South Africa to waive specific provisions of the TRIPS Agreement. This proposal calls on the WTO to recognize that countries have the option to suspend implementation and enforcement of relevant IP (intellectual property) obligations for the purpose of containing COVID-19.

Sa akin pong pagkaunawa, the Technical Committee on WTO Matters is still in the process of consultations and discussion on the Philippines' position on the proposal. Kaya para po sa akin, napakahalaga na tayo ay makiisa sa mahalagang panawagang ito. According to the latest statistics, 14% of our population has been fully vaccinated. Sa mga mayayamang bansa, above 60% na ang vaccination rate. Calling for vaccine equity is in our national interest.

Mr. President, new mutants will continue to emerge if the global south continues to suffer from lack of vaccines. Rich countries have to understand that new variants and dangerous mutations develop in areas and regions where infection levels of the original variants are high. And when new variants and mutations develop, they will also affect citizens of rich countries - citizens from who may be inoculated from old variants, but not from new ones.

For this reason, Mr. President - in support of the epidemiological, economic and moral imperatives to make life-saving vaccines available to all - I wish to thank the good Sponsor for sponsoring this resolution on the floor, and ask to be made a co-sponsor thereof.

Salamat po.

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