Slow Poke? Negligent Duque botched Pfizer vax deal, says senator

Coconuts Manila
·3 min read

Health Secretary Francisco Duque’s failure to submit the necessary paperwork led to the delay of the delivery of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines, Senator Panfilo Lacson said yesterday.

Lacson said he spoke with the Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel “Babes” Romualdez, who supposedly organized a meeting in July with American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

The three discussed the possible purchase of the Pfizer vaccine, which, if not for Duque’s inaction, could have arrived in the Philippines next month, Lacson said.

Read: Malacañang should question safety and efficacy of China vax, says Leachon

“Thus, they could have secured the delivery of 10 million Pfizer vaccines as early as January next year, way ahead of Singapore but for the indifference of Sec. Duque who failed to work on the necessary documentary requirement namely, the Confidentiality Disclosure Agreement (CDA) as he should have done,” Lacson said.

He added that Pfizer’s representative in the Philippines was even following up with Duque for the said CDA. In addition, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III had even assured Locsin and Romualdez that “money would be made available.”

Because of Duque’s lack of urgency, Lacson said the vials ended up being purchased by Singapore, which will receive the vaccine before New Year’s Day.

The latest controversy involving Duque started when Locsin tweeted yesterday that he and Romualdez were working towards the procurement of the vaccine, which would have been funded by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Locsin added that the vaccine would have arrived at Clark International Airport by January, “but somebody dropped the ball.”

People assumed that the ball dropper was Duque, but he said in a media briefing yesterday that negotiations with Pfizer are “ongoing.” However, the loquacious Lacson said this is not entirely true — he apparently learned from Romualdez that these talks “is a renewed initiative after they missed the bus the first time.”

Read: Did he or didn’t he? Senator Lacson refuses to confirm if he got COVID vax

Lacson is one of Duque’s most vocal critics. In August, the lawmaker wondered why the health chief continues to enjoy the trust of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has publicly defended Duque multiple times from critics. Lacson and his colleagues in the Senate have been pushing Duque to resign as early as April, citing the latter’s “failure of leadership,” “lack of foresight,” and “inefficiency” for the government’s poor pandemic response.

“I couldn’t understand what ‘amulet’ or magic potion Duque has as far as the President is concerned,” Lacson said in a statement.

Despite missing the Pfizer boat, the country is set to receive about 25 million doses of the controversial Chinese vaccine Sinovac, which will be delivered in March. Meanwhile, Filipino private companies have purchased 2.6 million shots of the vaccine produced by AstraZeneca, which will be delivered in May or June.

The Philippines has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, with 452,988 recorded as of yesterday. The figure includes 419,282 recoveries and 8,833 deaths.

This article, Slow Poke? Negligent Duque botched Pfizer vax deal, says senator, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.