PH borrows $250-M ADB loan to buy booster shots
MANILA, Philippines—The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Monday (Dec. 13) said its newest $250-million concessional, or low-interest, loan for the Philippines will allow its host-country to buy booster shots for adults as well as pediatric vaccines against COVID.
The ADB’s share in the total of $553.7-million additional financing for the second health system enhancement to address and limit COVID-19 under the Asia-Pacific vaccine access facility (Heal 2) project will pay for 40 million vaccine doses.
The Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was expected to also approve a $250-million additional financing for Heal 2, being implemented by the Department of Health (DOH), this month. The government will shell out the remainder of the project cost.
A separate $300-million loan from the World Bank will be up for approval by its Washington-based board next week, also to finance the Philippines’ purchase of booster shots.
“The Philippines has continuously enhanced its capacities for testing, tracing, isolating, and treating COVID-19 cases and vigorously pursued COVID-19 inoculation for its population,” said Sakiko Tanaka, ADB principal social sector specialist for Southeast Asia.
“The ADB is supporting the government’s drive to provide vaccines to protect its citizens and save lives, especially with the emergence of new COVID-19 variants,” Tanaka said.
“Vaccination will allow the health system to better manage the effects of the virus and will help sustain economic recovery. It is key to the country’s full recovery from the pandemic,” Tanaka added.
Back in March, the ADB and the AIIB co-financed the $700-million Heal 2 project to buy COVID vaccines and help jumpstart the Philippines’ mass vaccination drive.
The ADB said its $400-million contribution to Heal 2 allowed the Philippines to buy 85.6 million vaccine doses, of which over fourth-fifths had already been delivered as of early this month.
The COVID vaccines purchased through the ADB financing accounted for half of the Philippines’ vaccine supply so far, it said. Loan utilization had also progressed well as 98 percent of the funds were already committed for contracts with vaccine manufacturers, the ADB added.
“These supply contracts have helped the government expand its national COVID-19 vaccination program,” ADB said.
“As of Dec. 8, more than 57 million Filipinos, or nearly 65 percent of the Philippines’ target population, had been vaccinated with at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose,” ADB added.
In all, the Philippines borrowed $1.2 billion — including $500 million from the World Bank — to inoculate the population with complete shots. But with new, more contagious strains like Delta and Omicron cropping up, the government also wanted to secure boosters against the deadly coronavirus.
Last week, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told an online forum that out of the P396-billion COVID-19 response funds set aside in the proposed P5.02-trillion 2022 national budget, P45 billion in unprogrammed funds will be spent to buy booster shots for all Filipinos covered by the expanded vaccination program, including children.
Unprogrammed appropriations either came from foreign borrowings or excess revenues, the latter of which the government still does not have yet as revenue collections were badly hit by the pandemic-induced economic slump.
“The program for next year will really be to vaccinate all Filipinos, and also to provide booster shots for everyone who has been vaccinated,” Dominguez said.
Since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 until last week, the government borrowed a total of $24 billion or about P1.2 trillion from foreign lenders and offshore commercial markets to bankroll the prolonged fight against COVID-19.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.