Duterte backs local Covid-19 vax production

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

April 15, 2021, 11:44 pm

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday expressed support for the planned local production of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines.

This, after Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, during a virtual meeting, reported that at least four pharmaceutical firms have expressed intent to venture into local vaccine manufacturing.

Lopez said the government is currently in talks with four potential Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers.

“Para hindi tayo totally dependent sa pag-import ng vaccines. Of course, ngayon ho talagang nagde-depend tayo dahil wala tayong local manufacturing capabilities ([It will help us] not to be totally dependent on importation of vaccines. Of course, we are depending now [on other countries] because we still don’t have local manufacturing capabilities),” he told Duterte during the meeting of the Inter-Agency Taskforce for the Management on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) in Malacañang.

Based on Lopez’s presentation, United Laboratories and Glovax are among the pharmaceutical companies that have signified their plan to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines in the country.

The potential vaccine manufacturers, Lopez said, are requesting for “green lane on government permits” to ensure faster processing of all requirements and necessary documents.

Lopez added that government procurement of locally-produced vaccines is encouraged, “subject to standards, specs and prices.”

“They need our support,” he said. “Kailangan i-commit din ni government na bibilhin natin iyan para self-reliant and self-sufficient tayo. So ‘yun po ang isang kahilingan dito (The government should commit to buying [the locally-produced vaccines] so we will be self-reliant and self-sufficient. That’s their request).”

In his recorded public address, Duterte welcomed the possible manufacturing of Covid-19 vaccines in the country.

Duterte said the possibility of having Covid-19 vaccines produced in the country is an “answered prayer.”

“Parang dasal natin ito sa gobyerno kasi historically, the Philippines is one of the laggard, sabi nila because there’s a lot of paperwork at kung anu-ano ang hinihingi (It’s the government’s answered prayer because historically, they are saying the Philippine is one of the laggard [nations] because there’s a lot of paperwork and has so many demands),” he said.

To support the local production of vaccines, Duterte told appropriate government agencies to hasten the processing of requirements.

Duterte said it would take just less than an hour to issue permits for the companies that are interested in manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines in the country.

“Ask everybody to cooperate. Itong government procurement of locally-produced [vaccines], subject to standards, specs and prices, madali lang naman ito kung trabahuhin mo ito (This government procurement of locally-produced vaccines, subject to standards, specs and prices is easy if you would work on it). I don’t think it would take about one hour trabahuhin mo sa opisina (to process it in your office). It’s a matter of preparation,” he said.

The Philippines has so far received 2.5 million Covid-19 vaccines from China’s Sinovac Biotech and 525,600 vaccines from United Kingdom’s AstraZeneca. (PNA)