Galvez asked to explain Sinovac vaccine price, details in next probe despite meeting with select senators

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 21)— Some senators said they would still push for further details, including the exact cost, of China's Sinovac vaccine when the chamber resumes its inquiry on Friday.

In an interview with CNN Philippines on Thursday, Senator Risa Hontiveros questioned why the Philippines could not disclose the actual pricing of the Sinovac vaccine, when other countries using and considering the product for procurement were able to do so.

"It shouldn't be this major production. Simpleng tanong, simpleng sagot," Hontiveros told The Source. "We buy an ordinary product from day-to-day, or we pay for a service in our homes. We ask and we are answered— Magkano? Kasi bahagi 'yun ng desisyon natin as consumers."

"Wag tayong magtatago sa likod ng confidentiality disclosure agreement. Let's have the transparency that will enable accountability," she added, stressing the public needs a "clear answer."

[Translation: It shouldn't be this major production. A simple question, simple answer. We buy an ordinary product from day-to-day, or we pay for a service in our homes. We ask and we are answered how much is it? Because that's part of our decision as consumers. Let's not hide behind the confidentiality disclosure agreement.]

Galvez, upon instructions from President Rodrigo Duterte, met Wednesday with Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto to share vaccine procurement details and hopefully clear issues for transparency. The meeting was also attended by Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, according to Sotto.

Sotto confirmed there were nondisclosure agreements mandated by the pharmaceutical companies, and said he will be immediately informing his colleagues regarding the essential facts of these documents. He said that Galvez assured there will be no room for overpricing in the product procurements.

Meanwhile, Lacson said he and his colleagues advised Galvez to explain in Friday's hearing issues and concerns regarding the vaccines "without violating the terms of the agreement" of suppliers.

"His briefing clarified a lot of issues and concerns raised by the senators that have remained unresolved until last night," Lacson said in a message to reporters. "We advised him to explain in tomorrow's hearing the same way that he did last night without violating the terms of the agreement with the vaccine suppliers."

Asked about his meeting with the senators, Galvez said he explained the process of negotiations with vaccine manufacturers. "Nagbigay ako ng indicative prices. Nakita nila na ang potential gains natin ay umabot ng $1 billion. Nakita nila ang ginagawa natin ay may due diligence at prudence," the appointed vaccine czar said during the Laging Handa briefing.

[Translation: I gave them indicative prices. They saw that our potential gains reached about $1 billion. They saw that what we are doing have due diligence and prudence.]

Concerns over the Sinovac vaccine were earlier raised after officials refused to reveal its exact cost, citing a nondisclosure agreement with the drug maker. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque later said that each dose of the product is priced near ₱650 and won't exceed ₱700.

RELATED: Galvez, Duque should 'reaffirm' Sinovac vaccine price to boost public trust Drilon

'No walk out'

Galvez, meanwhile, assured that he will not walk out from the session when the Senate hearing resumes. This comes in light of President Rodrigo Duterte's advice for Galvez to leave the probe if senators become verbally abusive.

"Mali ang balita na magwo-walk out po ako," Galvez said. "Nirerespeto natin ang oversight function ng Senate. Naiintindihan namin na (it is) to give clarity kung ano ang implementation at transparency sa aming ginagawa na negotiation."

[Translation: The report that I would walk out is wrong. We respect the oversight function of the Senate. We understand that it is to give clarity over the implementation and transparency of our ongoing negotiations.]