MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte saw “no major lapse” in the country’s deal with US pharmaceutical company Pfizer on the purchase of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines, Malacañang said Thursday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., in a tweet, said someone had “dropped the ball” in negotiations with Pfizer on the delivery of 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
Locsin explained that he and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez had arranged for the delivery of vaccines with help of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as early as July.
Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson later blamed Health Secretary Francisco Duque III for failing to prepare the confidentiality disclosure agreement for the acquisition of vaccines.
Duque denied that he did not act quick enough in preparing the necessary documentation for the deal with Pfizer.
Roque said the President did not see this as a major issue since negotiations with the US drug company are still ongoing.
“I think from the overall demeanor of the President e wala naman po siyang nakikita na major lapse (he doesn’t see any major lapse),” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.
He pointed out that acquiring doses of vaccine for the country was tricky since wealthy nations have already bought up at least 80 percent of the supply.
“Wala rin pong danyos na nangyari because patuloy pa rin po ang pagkuha natin ng Pfizer at yung katotohanan na bagamat sinabi na dapat January tayo makakakuha ng Pfizer, ang realidad po talaga, spoken for na po yung mga ginawa o na-manufacture ng Pfizer for delivery in January dahil ‘yan po ay bayad na ng mga bumili (There was no damage done because our negotiations with Pfizer are ongoing and there’s the reality that even if they say we could have acquired Pfizer vaccines by January, the reality is that wealthy countries have paid for them already),” he said.
Citing vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., Roque said the Philippines could still get hold of Pfizer’s vaccine between the second and third quarter of 2021.
“Tuloy po ang ating negosasyon sa Pfizer. At inaasahan po natin na darating ang Pfizer sa second to third quarter (Our negotiations with Pfizer are ongoing. We expect the vaccines by the second to the third quarter),” he added.
Earlier, he said the government is also currently in negotiations with other big pharmaceutical companies namely AstraZeneca (UK), Sinovac Biotech (China), and Sputnik V (Russia) for potential vaccine deals.
Roque said Duterte also ordered Duque to answer Lacson’s allegations that he should be faulted for failure to acquire vaccines earlier.
“Hindi po namin alam kung ano talaga yung pinag-usapan ni Secretary Locsin, Ambassador Romualdez, at Secretary Pompeo. Kaya nga po minabuti ni Presidente na advisan si (We don’t know what Secretary Locsin, Ambassador Romualdez, and Secretary Pompeo talked about. That’s why the President advised) Secretary Duque, answer the allegations of Secretary Locsin in the same manner that he defended himself in yesterday’s meeting,” he said.
He also reiterated that it was almost “impossible” to acquire the Pfizer vaccines by January since wealthier countries have already paid for them in advance.
“Ang ini-emphasize natin, mukha naman pong imposible talagang makakuha tayo ng Pfizer as of January kasi yung January deliverables nila (What we’re emphasizing is that it seems impossible to get Pfizer vaccines by January because the January deliverables are) completely paid for already by the rich countries so let’s not speculate anymore at ang importante ay patuloy po ang pag-uusap at mukhang makakakuha naman talaga tayo ng (what’s important is negotiations are ongoing and it looks like we can still acquire) Pfizer anytime between second and third quarter of next year,” he added.
Roque said the contradicting statements among Cabinet officials—Locsin and Duque—would not affect the country’s purchase of vaccines.
“These conflicting opinions between Secretary Locsin and Secretary Duque in the end, does not really matter because it’s Secretary Galvez who has the full authority and he will be fully accountable to the President,” he said. (PNA)