Duterte allows advance vaccine payments beyond 15%

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 18) — The national government can now make bigger advance payments for COVID-19 vaccines.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday signed a memorandum order "exceeding the 15% limit on advanced payments for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines," his spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.

The country's procurement law prohibits the government from paying for pre-ordered goods, unless with prior approval from the President.

The Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act states that an advance payment "shall be made only after prior approval of the President, and shall not exceed fifteen percent (15%) of the contract amount, unless otherwise directed by the President," with a few exemptions.

A Senate hearing on Wednesday revealed the national government has not made a downpayment for any COVID-19 vaccine, while the private sector and local government units paid 50% through tripartite agreements. Lawmakers hit the government's slow procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, which have already been rolled out in other countries.

On Thursday, Duterte also certified as urgent bills that seek to establish an indemnification fund to compensate Filipinos who may experience serious side effects after being vaccinated against COVID-19. Pharmaceutical companies demand that governments shoulder the cost of treatment in case of possible adverse effects caused by vaccination to spare the firms from suits.

Officials said the absence of an indemnification fund delayed the delivery of 117,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines through the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility. The country's Vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., on Wednesday said indemnity deals have finally been submitted to Pfizer and UK-based AstraZeneca.