MANILA, Philippines — The Senate would be calling for an executive session to ask officials to disclose the prices of the millions of anti-coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine doses the government will be buying from other countries, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said.
“In the hearing…tomorrow, we’re going to, in an executive session so that they don’t violate their non-disclosure agreement, we will ask them to disclose the prices of the purchase of the vaccines, ‘yung amounts na babayaran [that we will pay], for transparency,” Zubiri said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel on Thursday.
The upper chamber is scheduled to resume its hearing into the government’s COVID-19 vaccination plan on Friday.
With several lawmakers and groups questioning the Duterte administration’s seeming preference for Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccines despite its higher price, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. defended the government’s decision to procure vaccines from the company, saying it is offering their vaccine at a cheaper price than those developed by U.S. pharmaceutical firms.
The Philippines has already secured from Sinovac 25 million doses of its vaccine, according to government officials, and that 50,000 doses will be arriving in the country by next month.
Galvez did not disclose the cost of Sinovac’s vaccine per dosage but said the Philippines was given the “best price” by the Chinese government for the vaccines.
Zubiri, however, believes non-disclosure agreements should not be invoked when public funds are being used.
“They’re claiming kasi the non-disclosure. Yung non-disclosure agreements cannot be used for government funds because we have to properly account it. That is the key to transparency,” he said.
“‘Di naman pwede nating sabihin na ‘Wag kayong magaalala, kami na bahala dito, kaming may alam ng presyo, pero wag kayong magalala, di tayo dehado’ Hindi po pwedeng ganon sa gobyerno, may [Commission on Audit] po tayo,” he added.
(We can’t say ‘Don’t worry, we’re on top of it, we know the prices, you don’t need to worry, we’re not on the losing end here.’ This is not allowed in government, we have the Commission on Audit.)
“I trust Sec. Galvez, he’s a good man. I’m glad he’s on top of the vaccine situation, and request lang namin is let’s be transparent about it,” the senator added./MUF