President Rodrigo Duterte is not inclined to sell state properties to fulfill his promise of providing free vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to the poorest Filipinos despite his previous pronouncements, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said on Sunday.
In a radio interview, DBM Secretary Wendel Avisado noted that the government does not need to sell properties at this time to fund the purchase of anti-COVID vaccines for 20 million poorest citizens as promised by the President.
“Possible but far from now because we have sources of funds. Our dollar reserves even grew in an unprecendente manner so we do not have to worry. And at this point, we don’t have to sell properties,” Avisado said.
“There are proposals to do so but the President is not that determined at this time since we have sources of funds for the program,” he added.
The President has previously raised the possibility of selling the country’s war reparation properties in Japan to fund the government’s immunization program against COVID-19. This was met with fierce opposition from some senators and other government officials, including Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
The Philippines acquired four real estate properties as part of the 1956 reparations agreement with Japan, including the Roppongi and Nampeidai properties in Tokyo, and the Noniwacho and Obanoyama in Kobe.
Malacañang later admitted that selling the country’s properties in Japan cannot be decided by the President alone since it can only be done through the passage of a law, as ruled by the Supreme Court in a 1990 decision on previous attempts to sell the Roppongi property.
In a speech on Wednesday, the President said he is seeking additional funds to purchase COVID-19 vaccines for the entire Philippine population, saying that all Filipinos should “ideally” be vaccinated against the dreaded virus.
He reiterated in his speech that poorest citizens and the beneficiaries of the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program would be prioritized in the distribution of free COVID-19 vaccines. He also said that the state forces should be among its first recipients.