AUSSIE AID. Australian Ambassador Steven Robinson turns over 100 oxygen concentrators to help the Philippines in its pandemic response on Thursday (Oct. 21, 2021) in Parañaque City. The Australian government is also increasing its pandemic aid to the Philippines by 11.5 million Australian dollars (approximately PHP433 million), raising its total commitment to about PHP1.79 billion. (PNA photo by Joey Razon)

MANILA – The Australian government is increasing its pandemic aid to the Philippines by 11.5 million Australian dollars (approximately PHP433 million), raising its total commitment to about PHP1.79 billion.

Australian Ambassador Steven Robinson said Thursday he was "very pleased" that his government is able to make an "important contribution" to the country's Covid-19 response, vaccine access and delivery needs.

“This new commitment of approximately PHP433 million will increase the number of Australian-funded vaccine doses that will be procured by UNICEF for the Philippines, and will significantly expand our vaccine delivery support, which is helping ensure that doses reach priority groups and vulnerable Filipinos across the country,” he said.

This funding is on top of Australia's previously announced AUD35.99 million or PHP1.25 billion assistance to the Philippines for 2021 to 2023.

The initial PHP1.25 billion aid includes the following:

- PHP525 million to procure Covid-19 vaccine doses, via UNICEF;
- PHP263 million to support vaccine delivery; and
- PHP36 million in expert health
- PHP432 million to support the Philippines' evolving health priorities over the next two years

Robinson said the additional allocation would augment their vaccine donations, including delivery and logistics support. The initial batch of its vaccine aid, meanwhile, is expected to arrive in the fourth quarter of 2021.

"The almost PHP1.8 billion that we have now committed will support the Philippines to transition through the Covid-19 and come out the other side with the population healthy and the economy bouncing back," he said.

The announcement was made as the envoy turned over to the Department of Health additional 100 oxygen concentrators, amounting to about PHP14 million.

The fresh donations bring to 200 the total concentrators and associated consumables Australia has provided to the Philippines.

The first 100 units were delivered last August across 27 hospitals and health centers in the National Capital Region, Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley Region, Zamboanga Peninsula, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

According to the Australian Embassy in Manila, the Health department would allocate the second donation to areas in need most.

More assistance

Apart from the anticipated Australia-donated jabs, Canberra, through the UNICEF, is set to deliver eight walk-in cold rooms worth PHP48.3 million and some 4,500 mobile tablets and wireless keyboards to help local governments in remote regions boost their capacity to distribute vaccines.

Australia had also recently supported the establishment of molecular laboratories in Manila and Mindanao that increased the daily tests by 18,000.

“We will continue to work with the Philippine government and delivery partners to help meet the needs of the Philippines. Our ongoing cooperation underscores the strong partnership that Australia and the Philippines have shared over the last 75 years,” the Embassy said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III personally thanked the Australian government during the turnover of concentrators in Pasay City, saying these donations are "really vital" in the clinical management of critical and severe Covid-19 cases.

Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. also expressed his gratitude, saying he sees "thousands of people" being saved by Australia's act of compassion and generosity.

"The Australian government has been our ally and we are thanking them on behalf of the government and the Filipino people, because they have been helping us in this fight against Covid-19," he said.

"[F]or all the good things the Australian government has given to us, we will never forget and we will always remember," he added. (PNA)