MPIC head keen on COVID-19 vaccines

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Manuel V. Pangilinan, Metro Pacific Investments Corp. chairman -- REUTERS

BUSINESSMAN Manuel V. Pangilinan said his group is interested in talking to pharmaceutical companies for a possible reservation deal once a coronavirus vaccine becomes available.

“Recently, we’ve gotten calls from pharmaceutical companies whether we will be interested in making reservations for potentially the vaccines that could be developed, hopefully by them, so we said, ‘Yes we are interested to talk,’” he said at a virtual briefing on Aug. 6.

The hospital unit of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), which Mr. Pangilinan chairs, has been “preparing to purchase the vaccines for distribution in their hospitals,” Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel G. Romualdez said in his recent column in The Philippine Star, citing a conversation with the businessman.

Confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country have reached over 120,000, according to the Health department.

Mr. Pangilinan said the group was doing everything it could to help the government fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a big effort on the part of the group to help the government. We are part of the process, in our own small way, of addressing the issues related to the virus,” he said.

He was also concerned about the effects of the contraction of the country’s gross domestic product in the second quarter.

“This 16.5% contraction is worrisome. How will the third and fourth quarters behave moving forward? Will it have an impact on people’s ability to spend on telco products? How will the enterprise sector be affected by this contraction? So these are worrisome issues for us because they could very well affect our revenues moving forward,” Mr. Pangilinan said, referring to PLDT, Inc., in which he is president and chief executive officer.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said last month the government was planning to allocate P20 billion for the purchase of vaccines.

He said the government would need to vaccinate for free a minimum of 20 million Filipinos.

The Philippine International Trading Corp. will be in charge of purchasing the vaccines, which will be distributed by the Health department, Mr. Dominguez said.

Philippine Ambassador to London Antonio Manuel R. Lagdameo has also said the government is interested in the experimental vaccines developed by Oxford University.

China, according to President Rodrigo R. Duterte, will give priority to the Philippines once it successfully develops a vaccine.

In May, the United States ordered 300 million doses of AstraZeneca’s experimental coronavirus vaccine, while the United Kingdom ordered 90 million doses of potential vaccines from various drug makers, including Pfizer, Inc.

MPIC is one of three Philippine subsidiaries of Hong Kong’s First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being PLDT, Inc. and Philex Mining Corp. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., maintains an interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group. — Arjay L. Balinbin