By Beatrice M. Laforga, Reporter
THE PHILIPPINE government has obtained loans from three multilateral lenders worth a combined $1.2 billion (P58 billion) to buy much-needed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines, the Department of Finance (DoF) said on Monday.
This as the Health department reported 10,016 new coronavirus infections, the third record daily increase in the last five days.
The DoF on Monday held a virtual launch event for the loans — $500 million from the World Bank, $400 million from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and $300 million from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
The loans from the ADB and the World Bank were signed on March 19, while the co-financing agreement with the AIIB was scheduled to be signed on Monday, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said.
The DoF chief said the multilateral lenders will help the government procure the COVID-19 vaccines, pay the manufacturers directly and deliver the supplies to the country.
The government will handle the costs of delivering the vaccines across health centers and other expenses in administering the doses.
“The prompt and substantial financing extended by our multilateral partners will help accomplish the government’s target to inoculate at least 70 million Filipinos, or 100% of our adult population. We are committed to accelerate the rollout of our vaccination program so that we can safely open up our economy and restore the jobs of our people,” Mr. Dominguez said.
The foreign loans will partially fund the P72.5-billion mass vaccination program of the state.
During the launch, ADB Vice-President Ahmed Saeed aired concerns over the limited supply of vaccines in the international market since wealthier countries have pre-ordered vaccine supplies for the next six months.
“The world simply does not have enough vaccines and, on top of that, wealthy nations are building stockpiles through precommitment of most of the production that will become available over the next 6 months. This has made it difficult for developing countries to secure vaccines and is leading to slow vaccine rollouts,” Mr. Saeed said.
The vaccine loans will add to the $14.29-billion foreign loans the government obtained so far to boost its war chest against the coronavirus pandemic.
“We appreciate our multilateral partners’ responsiveness and flexibility in providing appropriate and timely financing support to cater to our specific needs during this pandemic. They stood side by side with us throughout this battle by giving us the ample ammunition we need to quickly recover from this health crisis,” Mr. Dominguez said.
“Our multilateral partners’ swift response to our call for support reflects their confidence in the Philippines’ capability to effectively implement our COVID-19 response measures, including our national vaccination program,” he added.