President Rodrigo Duterte holds a meeting with members of the  Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on April 23, 2020. (Presidential Photo)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has raised to PHP50 million the prize money to any Filipino who can develop a cure for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Duterte made the pronouncement in a taped public address aired on state-run PTV-4 on Friday.

He maintained that he is ready to lift the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) once a vaccine against the novel coronavirus is discovered.

“Sabi ko sa’yo, sa oras na lalabas ang vaccine, i-lift ko. I-lift ko kaagad. Wala ng seremonya (I tell you, by the time the vaccine is there, I will lift the ECQ. I will immediately lift it. There will be no ceremony),” Duterte said. “I’m raising the bounty to PHP50 million. PHP50 million ho ang ibigay ko sa grupo (I will give PHP50 million to the group) because it’s a collegial thing.”

Duterte’s original offer to any Filipino who could develop a vaccine against Covid-19 was PHP10 million.

Duterte said the reward could even reach PHP100 million if the discovery of a cure for Covid-19 makes him “happy.”

“Baka sa ligaya ko, another PHP50 million. Kapag nandiyan na, kung maligaya ako masyado, eh di PHP100 million. Puro kayo milyonaryo. Huwag kayong mahiyang tanggapin (If that’s already there, because of happiness, I might add another PHP50 million. If I’m too happy, it will be PHP100 million. You will be a millionaire. Do not be ashamed of accepting the money),” he said.

Duterte said raising the reward money was meant to motivate the “bright” Filipino scientists and doctors to find a way on how to combat the deadly disease.

He was optimistic that a vaccine against Covid-19 would soon be developed.

“Ang Covid ho, hindi matatapos iyan (Covid-19 will not end). It will be here and it will stay until kingdom come. Pero 'pag may bakuna na, baka sakali na mauna tayo, ma-embolden ang ating (But we are hoping that we will have the vaccine, that we can embolden our) scientists to work overtime to come up with a vaccine. Covid equals vaccine. Period,” Duterte said.

In his speech during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Plus Three Summit on April 15, Duterte bared that the Philippines is ready to join other countries in conducting clinical trials of Avigan, a Japanese anti-viral drug, for the potential treatment of Covid-19.

Malacañang also urged the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday to study the effectiveness of Fabunan, a patented anti-viral drug against dengue, in curing Covid-19.

As of April 23, the Philippines has 6,981 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 462 fatalities and 722 recoveries. (PNA)