The Philippines has borrowed $800 million from multilateral lenders to fund the roll out of booster shots of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine, as the country battles a fresh surge in infections.   

Finance Undersecretary Bayani H. Agabin said the government borrowed $250 million each from the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in December.  

Another $300-million loan agreement with the World Bank was also signed last month, the Department of Finance (DoF) said in a press release on Friday.  

“We expect everything, we expect (these loans) to be effective around, towards the latter part of January. So that will give us funds to purchase our COVID-19 booster shots,” Mr. Agabin was quoted as saying in the statement.   

The DoF is waiting for the Justice department’s opinion on the enforcement of agreements already signed with the lenders.  

The government in December cut the waiting time for a booster dose to three months amid the threat from the more transmissible Omicron variant.    

The country has seen a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases in recent days. President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Thursday evening said unvaccinated people will be arrested if they disobey stay-at-home orders.  

About 50 million Filipinos were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of last year, which means the government missed its 54 million end-2021 target.   

Mr. Agabin said the Customs bureau had cleared shipments of over 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from March to December last year. The vaccines delivered during that period could help inoculate 100% of the country’s adult population, along with minors aged 12-17, DoF said.  

The government had borrowed $23.4 billion from external sources to fund its COVID-19 response as of Dec. 7.  


Meanwhile, Mr. Agabin reiterated that the DoF plans to borrow another $120 million from a World Bank credit line to support the government’s rehabilitation efforts in regions devastated by Typhoon Odette.  

The government will draw from the $500-million World Bank credit line for disaster recovery. It borrowed an initial $80 million for its disaster recovery efforts last month.  

Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai) brought heavy rains and destructive winds over central and southern Philippines in December, causing widespread destruction.  — Jenina P. Ibañez