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World Bank signals readiness to fund PHL vaccine program

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THE World Bank said it is ready to support the Philippine government with vaccine acquisition once an effective product becomes available.

World Bank Senior Economist Rong Qian said the bank has been supporting the government’s programs to help the economy bounce back from the COVID-19 crisis, the most recent of which is the loan facility the bank launched last week to help developing countries buy and distribute the vaccine.

“I’d like to highlight a few things that the World Bank Group is doing to support the government in recovering from this crisis. We provide financial loans to the government through project or budget support, technical assistance (in several programs of the state)…and more recently, I think it was last week it was announced that the World Bank Group will also provide financing for vaccine purchase and implementation,” she said during a webinar organized by the Manila Times.

The bank has approved $1.2 billion worth of budget loans and $470 million in project financing to help boost government funding for the pandemic containment effort.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said at the same forum that he has spoken with the World Bank about its new $12-billion loan facility for COVID-19 vaccines.

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Mr. Dominguez said he has asked multilateral development banks to work closely in drafting their financing support packages to avoid duplication and help the borrower countries obtain the needed loans efficiently.

“This morning, I just had a long discussion with our multilateral partner in the World Bank… I asked them to please work together with the other multilateral agencies like the ADB (Asian Development Bank) so that we are not duplicating our efforts with regard to financing the vaccines for the Philippines,” Mr. Dominguez said.

He said aside from the financial support, the banks could also help countries build infrastructure to store and distribute vaccines, especially in the case of the Philippines where distribution must take place across an archipelago.

The government has set a distribution target of 20 million free vaccines with a budget of P20-40 billion.

Mr. Dominguez has said the government will also tap state-run banks for funding.

Around P2.5 billion is allotted to the Health department to procure vaccines and some P10 billion was listed as unprogrammed appropriations in next year’s P4.5-trillion proposed budget.

Russia is considering setting up a manufacturing facility in the Philippines to produce its COVID-19 vaccine.

Next year’s projected 6.5-7.5% economic growth hinges on the assumption that an effective vaccine will be widely available by the first half of 2021. — Beatrice M. Laforga

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