PHL ‘second fiddle’ in vaccine purchase because it’s not rich

The Philippines is seemingly playing “second fiddle” in the purchase of vaccines for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) because the country has “no clout” and is “not rich”, President Rodrigo Duterte said late Monday night.

Duterte made this remark after Health Secretary Francisco Duque III came under fire for allegedly having “dropped the ball” in negotiations with Pfizer on the delivery of the vaccines for the Philippines.

“May I just explain to the public the reason why we — we seemed to be a second fiddle in these negotiations for the acquisition of vaccine. Second fiddle nga tayo (We’re second fiddle), it’s because ‘yung mga mayaman na doon pa ginagawa sa kanila ang vaccine, kagaya ng Pfizer, uunahin talaga ang Amerika (rich countries where vaccines are made, like those made by Pfizer, they will prioritize America),” he said in a taped speech.

He said there was “no available” vaccines from Pfizer for the Philippines, adding that “it remains to be seen” when the American pharmaceutical company could supply the country with.

“Let us be clear on this, there is as yet no Pfizer vaccines available for the Philippines. And for a long time, wala pa. Binabakunahan pa ang mga Amerikano lahat. Agawan sila ngayon sa Amerika (there won’t be. They’re vaccinating all Americans. They’re scrambling to get them),” he said.

“Tayo (Us), well, wala man tayo masyadong ano, ‘yung pera lang natin pangbili lang talaga (we don’t have that much money except enough to buy the vaccines) but we do not have the clout because we are not a rich nation,” he added.

He also reiterated that vaccine czar Carlito Galvez will be the only person-in-charge of handling the purchase of vaccines.

“You can negotiate, you can whatever, sign documents for the delivery. But at the end of the day, isang tao lang talaga ang binigyan ko niyan, si (I gave the authority only to one person) General Galvez. It begins and ends at his table,” he said.

Meanwhile, Duterte said he was assured by Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez that there are enough funds to pay for the vaccines.

Sabi ni Avisado, may pera daw. Sabi ni Dominguez, may pera. Oh ‘di kaya natin. So walang problema. Ano ba ang problemahin natin (Avisado said there’s money. Dominguez said there’s money. So we can do it. There’s no problem. What are we worrying about)?” he said.

He urged the public to trust him as their elected President, instead of those that spin rumors to make the government look bad.

Makinig lang kayo sa akin tutal ako man ang pinili — ‘di ba ako ang hinalal ninyong Presidente (Just listen to me since I was the one chosen. I’m the one you elected President, right)? So I am supposed to solve problems for you, for the people,” he said.

Last week, Malacañang said Duterte asked Duque to answer allegations made by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin that he was responsible for the delay in the purchase of Pfizer vaccines.

Duque earlier denied that he did not immediately prepare the necessary documents for the deal, noting that the government was still scrutinizing them.

Roque earlier said that the Philippines may still acquire Pfizer’s vaccine between the second and third quarter of 2021. PNA.GOV.PH