PH eyes new $900-million loans to buy booster shots
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is looking at borrowing again from multilateral banks about $900 million to buy booster shots against COVID-19 next year, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said.
“Exploratory discussions with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and the World Bank have been initiated to help determine possible funding sources for additional vaccine requirements in 2022. We expect to execute loan agreements towards the end of the year,” Dominguez said Tuesday night.
These possible loans will finance the P45.3 billion fund in the proposed P5.02-trillion 2022 national budget which had been set aside for vaccine boosters. This amount was included under unprogrammed appropriations while awaiting if the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) will require booster doses.
Unlike regular budget items, unprogrammed appropriations can only be funded by excess revenues or additional foreign borrowings.
“The NTF [National Tax Force Against COVID-19], the DOH [Department of Health], and the DOF [Department of Finance] have initially identified multilateral and bilateral financial institutions as possible sources of funding for this allocation,” Dominguez said.
At the start of 2022 budget deliberations in the Senate last month, Dominguez told senators that while he may be a “layman” in science and medicine, he had been aware of other countries which were already inoculating boosters amid the faster spread of the more contagious Delta variant of the deadly coronavirus.
However, Dominguez said the allotment for booster shots had been lodged in unprogrammed appropriations because “at this time, the panel of [vaccine] experts has not yet determined with finality that boosters are necessary.”
Dominguez disclosed that he had a “big argument” with these medical authorities as he insisted on a budget item ensuring a funding source when boosters are needed.
In the meantime, Dominguez said they were “preparing a line item in the budget that we can activate immediately upon approval of authorities.”
For the COVID-19 vaccines procured this year, the Philippines borrowed a total of $1.2 billion from the Manila-based ADB, the Beijing-based AIIB, and the Washington-based World Bank. These lenders directly paid suppliers the vaccines ordered by the Philippine government.
Last August, Dominguez said a total of 194.89 million vaccine doses had been secured by the government to cover and inoculate 100.5 million Filipinos.
Dominguez said 105.65 million doses were bought through $1.13 billion in external loans from multilateral institutions; 15.5 million doses worth $176.5 million were funded by the national budget; 24.9 million doses worth $284.5 million were acquired by the private sector and local government units (LGUs); and 48.84 million doses worth $503 million were donated by foreign governments like China, Japan, and the United States, among others, as well as the COVID-19 vaccines global access facility (Covax).
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