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IN what appears to be an effort to stabilize COVID-19 supplies in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte drew some P2.5 billion from his office’s contingency fund to augment the required amount needed for the procurement of vaccines.

According to Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, the amount would be charged against the 2021 Office of the President’s allotment.

“Kaa-approve lang ng ating Pangulo ng P2.5 billion equivalent to $56 million chargeable against the 2021 contingency fund,” Avisado said at the Laging Handa briefing.

“This amount will cover the payment of around four million doses of vaccines and its corresponding logistical and administrative cost, which is expected na ma-release ngayong buwan,” he added.

The DBM also issued a special allotment release order and notice of cash allocation for the Department of Health (DOH).

“Sa madaling sabi hindi lang po talaga P82.5 billion ang gagastusin natin ngayong taon para sa pagbili ng vaccines kaya pati contingency fund kailangan gamitin,” Avisado further averred.

Under the 2021 General Appropriations Act, the government has allocated a P82.5 billion budget for COVID-19 vaccines to cover around 55% of the population. Of this amount, P2.5 billion forms part of the 2021 budget of the Department of Health (DOH).

Meanwhile, P10 billion will come from the funds allocated for the COVID-19 vaccination program under Republic Act (RA) No. 11494 or the Bayanihan To Recover As One Act or Bayanihan 2.

The remaining P70 billion will be sourced from loans provided by multilateral lenders, the Philippines’ bilateral partners, and/or the domestic market.

So far, the Philippine government has inked loan agreements amounting to $1.2 billion for its vaccine purchase, broken down as follows:

·         $500 million from the World Bank’s Philippines COVID-19 Emergency Response Project-Additional Financing

·         $400 million from the Asian Development Bank’s Second Health System Enhancement to Address and Limit COVID-19 (HEAL 2)

·         $300 million from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s  (AIIB) HEAL 2 program co-financed with the ADB

Avisado said the Department of Budget and Management has released P59.39 billion to the DOH which covers the loan agreements with multilateral institutions such as the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

He, however, clarified that funding secured through loan agreements will not go directly to the national government as the lenders themselves will purchase the vaccines from manufacturers.

To date, 8,329,050 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to the Philippines. This consisted of:

·         5,500,000 Sinovac vaccines (4,500,000 purchased by the government and the rest were donations);

·         2,556,000 AstraZeneca vaccines from the COVAX facility;

·         80,000 Sputnik V vaccines purchased from Russia; and

·         193,050 Pfizer vaccines from COVAX facility.

“Subalit hindi tayo natatapos dito dahil kailangan pa natin ng mas marami pang vaccines at nakikipag-unahan tayo sa ibang bansa,” Avisado noted.

“In the meantime, bakit kailangan kumuha sa contingency fund? Dahil nga po talagang kulang ang pondo,” he further added.

The Budget chief said the contingency fund amounting to P13 billion can only be used upon approval of the President.

“This will cover the funding requirements of new and urgent measures and activities or projects of the national government,” Avisado quipped.

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