OPAPP Secretary Carlito Galvez
By Junex Doronio
BELIEVING IN THE SINCERITY of the Chief Executive to serve the people, first and foremost, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. has expressed hope that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will authorize the advance payment of coronavirus vaccines this year.
“Ang [target] po namin is magkaroon kami ng clearance within this year kasi para just in case magkakaroon po [ng vaccine] sa second quarter, we have enough preparation for the procurement and manufacturing process,” Galvez bared.
The President has designated Galvez, retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief, as the Covid-19 response chief implementer.
He is also Secretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process.
Galvez noted that the country’s procurement law prohibits the government from paying for pre-ordered goods, unless with prior approval from the President.
“There’s a legal provision that with the approval of the President, we can do the advance payment considering that the situation right now is a pandemic, a crisis,” Galvez pointed out.
At the same time, the Department of Health is seeking a “special exemption” from the law, noting that many vaccine manufacturers require a deposit.
In an online media briefing on Wednesday, Galvez expressed confidence the President will authorize the advance payment of coronavirus vaccines.
The vaccine czar said he met with officials of the Commission on Audit, who assured him that there would be no legal impediment as long as the President approves any advance payment.
It can be noted that the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act states that an advance payment “shall be made only after prior approval of the President, and shall not exceed fifteen percent (15%) of the contract amount, unless otherwise directed by the President.”
The only exemptions explicitly mentioned are procurements in areas where making downpayments is standard practice, including hotel and restaurant services, use of venues, and lease of office space.
Galvez said that considering that Covid-19 infects more than 51.5 million people worldwide, agreeing to pay in advance is the only way the Philippines can secure enough vaccine supply.
He added that the government can also enter into multilateral arrangements with financing institutions or tripartite agreements with the business sector for the purchase of the vaccines.
Galvez also noted that some countries like China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Singapore and the U.S. are “more than willing” to provide vaccines for the Philippines.
Duterte on Tuesday lamented that getting immediate access to the vaccines would be no easy task as nations will likely prioritize their own people.
He also said the Finance Department intends to borrow $300 million or around ₱14.5 billion to purchase the vaccines.
“Sa reality… yung mga production ay nakukuha na po ng mga mayayaman na mga bansa pero tayo ay medyo nagkakaroon po tayo ng diplomatic engagements na sana maging equitable and I believe the WHO (World Health Organization) is on top of it,” Galvez said.