‘You must be crazy’: Duterte slams Western firms for asking advance pay on COVID vax

<i>Photo: Presidential Communications / FB</i>
Photo: Presidential Communications / FB

Western drug manufacturers must be crazy if they’re expecting the Philippine government to pay for a vaccine even before having produced one, President Rodrigo Duterte said in a publicly broadcast speech aired late last night.

“Other countries, they want cash advance before they deliver a vaccine. If that’s the case then every Filipino will die…we might as well kiss each other now to make it easier,” Duterte said in English and Filipino.

The president said he prefers to buy a vaccine from Russia and China, believing that theirs is “as good as any in the market.” He accused Western companies of being obsessed with profits.

Read: Most Filipinos believe China ‘concealed’ info about COVID-19, says survey

“You’re telling me there’s no vaccine yet, there is nothing with finality and you want us to make a reservation by depositing money. You must be crazy,” he added.

The chief executive said the Philippines’ procurement law also does not allow the government to buy something “that is non-existent,” referring to Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Last month, the Department of Health said that it is negotiating with at least 16 companies which are developing a COVID-19 vaccine. Before this announcement, the Department of Science and Technology said that the Philippines has signed an agreement with five pharmaceutical companies which will allow the Duterte government to access their research, such as Australia’s Seqirus, China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm, Russia’s Gamaleya, and Taiwan’s Adimmune. Except for Sinopharm, all the manufacturers are interested in holding clinical trials in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, clinical trials will be conducted simultaneously in Manila and Moscow for the controversial Sputnik V in November this year.

Read: Spokesman Roque believes Duterte pardoned Pemberton to access US-made COVID vax

Just last week, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said that he believed that Duterte’s decision to pardon Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was done to make it easier for the Philippines to procure an American-made COVID-19 vaccine, an assumption that the Department of Health rejected.

As of yesterday, the country has 265,888 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 4,630 deaths and 207,504 recoveries.

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