Duterte: Prioritize bilateral deals for vaccines to avoid corruption

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 27) — President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to directly deal with governments — specifically mentioning China — in procuring COVID-19 vaccines for Filipinos.

In a recorded address to the nation broadcast on Tuesday, he said bilateral agreements on vaccine procurement will prevent opportunities for corruption.

"Maganda sana government-to-government ang transaction. Walang corruption kasi government to government. I am offering it to China kasi mayroon na sila," he said, citing Ambassador Huang Xilian's remark that China has already finished creating a vaccine against COVID-19.

[Translation: It's better if the transaction is between governments. There is no corruption there. I am offering it to China because they already have a vaccine.]

He added, "Ayaw ko 'yung bibili tayo sa private Chinese businessmen. Diyan magkakalokohan."

[Translation: I don't want us to buy from private Chinese businessmen. Problems could arise.]

Duterte, in the same speech, ordered the anti-corruption task force led by the Department of Justice to conduct investigations into all government agencies.

RELATED: Duterte expands role of DOJ-led task force to probe corruption in 'entire government'

He gave a promise to China that the Philippines will pay for the much-awaited vaccines.

"Hindi kami maghingi, we will pay... I believe sa Chinese expertise and knowledge," he said.

[Translation: We will not ask for free vaccines, we will pay. I believe in the Chinese expertise and knowledge.]

Philippine Ambassador to Beijing Chito Sta. Romana earlier said China has not set any conditions for prioritizing the Philippines for the supply of coronavirus vaccines being developed in the mainland. He stressed the need for local authorities to double efforts in ensuring cold storage capacity ahead of Chinese drug makers' expected mass production of vaccines, which he said are set to be approved soon.

Chinese pharmaceutical firms Sinovac and Sinopharm are close to completing phase 3 trials, the last step before regulatory approvals are given for widespread use of the vaccines.