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Philippines gets P44-B loan for vaccines

The World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Friday approved two loans worth $900 million (P43.65 billion) that the Philippine government will use to buy vaccines against the coronavirus.

The World Bank would lend $500 million, while the ADB would lend $409 million, the multilateral banks said in separate statements.

The ADB loan will be co-financed by a $300-million loan from China-led multilateral lender AIIB.

The government expects $1.2 billion of financing from the three multilateral lenders to plug the funding gap for its P72.5-billion vaccination program to cover at least 60 million Filipinos this year.

The ADB said the Philippine loan was the first to be approved from its $9-billion Asia Pacific Vaccine Access (APVAX) facility.

The bank will pay vaccine suppliers directly and help deliver the drugs to the country, ADB senior social sector specialist for Southeast Asia Sakiko Tanaka told in a news briefing on Friday.

The vaccines must either be part of the COVAX facility, pre-qualified by the World Health Organization or approves by a stringent regulatory authority where these were produced.

The bank will provide technical assistance in the vaccine rollout, monitoring, medical waste management, vaccine information management and in expanding its coverage to include the elderly and people with disabilities.

“ADB’s support will boost the Philippine government’s urgent efforts to secure and deploy COVID-19 vaccines for all Filipinos, especially those who are vulnerable, such as frontline workers, the elderly, and poor and marginalized populations, as well as those at increased risk of severe illness,” ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa said in the statement.

He said the vaccine rollout is crucial to economic recovery this year.

Meanwhile, the World Bank said the government could use online platforms to get feedback on its program and ensure a smooth rollout.

The $500-million loan was a drawdown from the bank’s $12-billion lending facility to help low- and middle-income economies buy their own vaccines.

“Procuring and administering vaccines provides the country an added layer of defense against COVID-19 on top of public health measures or interventions like social distancing, wearing of masks and washing hands,” Ndiamé Diop, World Bank country director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand said in the statement.

“Inclusive deployment of vaccines in line with the World Health Organization Fair Allocation Framework is critical for preventing grave illness and deaths from COVID-19, opening the economy in earnest, ensuring a resilient recovery, and restoring jobs and incomes,” he added. — Beatrice M. Laforga

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