PHILIPPINE Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Tuesday, December 15, said the country was supposed to receive 10 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine as early as January, but a government official bungled the deal.
In a series of tweets, Locsin shared that he and Philippine Ambassador to the United State Jose “Babe” Romualdez facilitated a deal with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to secure Pfizer’s vaccine that has a 95% efficacy rate.
The purchase was supposed to be financed by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
“That said my thanks just the same to US Sec of State Mike Pompeo we – Babe Romualdez and I – got 10 million doses of Pfizer financed by World Bank and ADB to be shipped thru FEDEX to Clark in January. But somebody dropped the ball,” Locsin tweeted.
The foreign chief also maintained that the Philippines was not slow to act, in response to former poll commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal’s tweet noting that the country “missed the bus.”
“No. We did not miss the bus because we were slow to act. Babe and I were fast. Offers poured in. But there are none so slow as those who never had the intention to catch the bus,” said Locsin.
Romualdez, meanwhile, clarified that the vaccine deal was not scrapped, only pushed back.
“Only pushed back to later date of delivery possibly June next year because we did (not) act quick enough on the CDA (Confidential Disclosure Agreement). Other countries got ahead of us like Singapore,” he told CNN Philippines in a text message.
“We are ‘work in progress’ with Pfizer & Moderna for supply of vaccines. If we commit soon, we can possibly get delivery by mid next year,” he added.
Neither officials disclosed the name of the person responsible for the missed Pfizer vaccine purchase.
Malacañang was also left in the dark on who Locsin’s referring to in his controversial tweets.
“No. I have no idea who dropped the ball,” admitted presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in a press briefing.
However, he insisted that the government did its part in attempting to secure the vaccines for the country.
“Malinaw na malinaw po na no less than our Secretary of Foreign Affairs negotiated with his counterpart in the U.S., Secretary Pompeo, para tayo po ay magkaroon ng supply ng Pfizer. So, hindi naman po tayo nagkulang diyan at mayroon talaga pong kasunduan na bibigyan tayo ng Pfizer (It’s very clear that no less than our Secretary of Foreign Affairs negotiated with his counterpart in the US, Secretary Pompeo, so we could have Pfizer’s supply. So, we weren’t lacking and there was an agreement that Pfizer would supply us),” Roque said.
Lacson: It’s a Cabinet member
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday, December 16 gave hints on who wasted Locsin and Romualdez’s efforts.
“Cabinet syempre (of course). Captain ball at that,” he told INQUIRER.net.
“You can figure that out. He’s the captain ball. He keeps dropping the ball but he stays in the game. The coach refuses to replace him,” he added.
Lacson shared that he had an SMS exchange with Romualdez and the envoy told him who the individual in question was.
The senator also urged Locsin not to pass the ball to the Cabinet member when he arranges a deal again.
“I wish you and Babes good luck in your next effort to intercept the ball,” Locsin said in a tweet.
“Next time, don’t pass it to that doggone…teammate of yours. He keeps dropping the ball. Our people need those vaccines,” he added.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, for his part, denied that someone mishandled the deal with Pfizer.
“First of all, there is no such thing as dropping the ball. The negotiations are ongoing,” he insisted.
Duque also said that he signed a CDA with the American vaccine developer in October.
“Tuloy-tuloy lang kami sa mga reviews nung mga conditionalities/provisions and I just wanted to make sure na hindi onerous or disadvantageous to government yung mga provisions (We are just continuously going through the reviews of conditionalities/provisions and I just wanted to make sure that the provisions aren’t onerous or disadvantageous to government),” he said.
“Our vaccine czar also signed a CDA with Pfizer last November. So, he would be in the best position to tell you or us at what stage that the negotiations we are in,” he added.
Earlier this year, Duque received flak for failing to immediately issue a directive stopping Chinese travelers from entering the Philippines after COVID-19 broke out in Wuhan in December last year.
He also received criticisms for failing to solve the corruption issue in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth).
Several senators signed a resolution urging Duque to resign as Health, but President Rodrigo Duterte said Duque continues to enjoy his trust and confidence.