DOF: $800M in vaxx loans to fund more booster shots
MANILA, Philippines—With a total of $800 million (about P41 billion) in concessional loans from multilateral lenders expected to take effect this month, the government is ready to buy additional booster shots against COVID, the Department of Finance (DOF) said on Friday (Jan. 7).
Citing a recent report by Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin to President Rodrigo Duterte, the DOF said the low-interest loans intended for boosters, approved in December 2021, were all signed with creditors last month.
The Philippines borrowed $300 million from the Washington-based World Bank, plus $250-million each from the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), for the booster jabs to be procured by the Department of Health (DOH) under this year’s national budget.
The P5.02-trillion 2022 budget set aside P45 billion in unprogrammed appropriations — which would come from either foreign borrowings or excess revenues — to be spent on additional vaccine doses.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, on behalf of the Philippine government, and World Bank country director for the Philippines Ndiame Diop signed the loan agreement on Dec. 29 and Dec. 25, documents seen by the Inquirer showed.
Dominguez and ADB Philippines country director Kelly Bird signed the ADB loan agreement last Dec. 14, separate documents showed. The loan agreement with the AIIB was not yet publicly available.
Agabin told Duterte that while the DOF was still awaiting the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) opinion on the effective dates of the three new loans, “we expect everything to be effective around, towards the latter part of January.”
“That will give us funds to purchase our COVID-19 booster shots,” Agabin told the President.
Multilateral lenders directly paid vaccine suppliers for the DOH’s orders, which meant no money passed through the government.
Dominguez earlier said the DOF had decided to borrow vaccine funds from development banks in order to prevent misuse and corruption.
Since these lenders were privy to international vaccine prices, which global pharmaceutical giants don’t want to make public under the nondisclosure agreements they signed with governments worldwide, Dominguez had said such assured that there was no overpricing in the Philippine government’s purchases.
In all, the government borrowed a total of $2 billion or over P100 billion for COVID vaccine procurement, including $1.2 billion also obtained from the same three multilateral banks in March 2021.
Also, Agabin told Duterte that the Bureau of Customs (BOC), between March and end-December 2021, fast-tracked the clearance of a cumulative 210.4 million doses of vaccines, which he said were “more than enough to inoculate 100 percent of the country’s population of adults and children aged 12-17 years old.”
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