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ADB sets aside $25M for Philippines’ vaccine purchase

A simulation exercise for the rollout of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines was conducted in Mandaluyong City, Jan. 27, 2021. — PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

THE ASIAN Development Bank (ADB) on Monday said it is set to lend $25 million (P1.2 billion) to the Philippine government for its acquisition of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines this year.

The ADB in a statement said the funds will come from its $125-million (P6 billion) Health System Enhancement to Address and Limit COVID-19 project, which allows governments to pay vaccine manufacturers in advance and secure a slot when the vaccine is available.

The government’s vaccine supply contracts with ADB financing will follow the multilateral lender’s procurement rules and guidelines, as well as its anti-corruption and integrity policy. It will also follow global best practices on safeguard measures, including waste management of medical supplies.

“(The Philippines) has significantly improved its capacity in testing, tracing, isolating, and treating COVID-19 cases in the last 10 months. Vaccination is the next critical step to protect lives and promote livelihood opportunities,” ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa said in a statement.

“We stand ready to support the government in these unprecedented times and help the economy navigate back to its pre-pandemic growth path.”

At the same time, the ADB said it is working on additional financing for the Philippines under the bank’s $9-billion (P432-billion) Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility (APVAX). The deal has yet to be approved by the ADB Board of Directors.

In an e-mail, the bank clarified that the $25-million loan will be on top of the $325-million (P15.6-billion) credit line earlier requested by the Philippine government.

ADB Country Director for the Philippines Kelly Bird has said the country is eligible for up to $400 million to $500 million of credit under the bank’s APVAX facility for vaccine procurement.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III earlier said that the government is seeking $1.3 billion (P62.5 billion) in foreign loans to partially finance its P72.5-billion mass vaccination program this year. The rest of the funds will be sourced through state revenues and state-run banks.

Mr. Dominguez said the government is tapping the ADB, the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to meet its financing needs.

The Philippine government is seeking an additional loan of $300 million (P14.4 billion) from the World Bank to help it buy and distribute COVID-19 vaccines.

The government’s mass vaccination program targets to cover at least 60 million Filipinos this year.

The Philippines has the second-highest number of COVID-19 infections in Southeast Asia. The Health department on Monday reported 1,658 new cases, bringing the total to 527,272.

Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado said in a statement on Monday that there will be a “fair distribution” of COVID-19 vaccines for all local government units (LGUs). He said the Office of the President can issue an order to allow LGUs to use their calamity funds to buy the vaccines, if needed. — Beatrice M. Laforga

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