Malacañang on Monday said the government’s purchase of 25 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from China’s Sinovac is final with a “binding contract” with the manufacturer, refuting statements by officials who have earlier claimed that the Philippines can still back out from the deal.
Citing the Civil Code, presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said the government is already committed to buying vaccines made by the Chinese firm, which is being questioned over its supposed confusing efficacy rates.
“When there is already what we call a ‘meeting of the minds,’ when it comes to consent, object and consideration… we already have an obligation,” Roque said.
The Palace official noted that the Philippines has signed a term sheet with Sinovac, which states that the purchase will push through if the Chinese manufacturer gets approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
His remarks run contrary to the pronouncements last week by some officials involved in the immunization program, including Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., deputy chief implementer of the National Task Force against Covid-19 Vivencio Dizon, and Finance Undersecretary Mark Joven.
“That is wrong,” Roque said.
Officials have previously announced that Manila has locked in 25 million doses of the Sinovac jabs with the first 50,000 expected to be delivered in February. Of the total number of doses, half a million will be sent to the Philippines for free since it will be donated by China.
Throughout the Senate hearing, lawmakers repeatedly questioned the government’s decision to include Sinovac’s vaccines among doses being considered for use, citing its confusing efficacy rates.
Data from Sinovac’s Phase 3 trials conducted in Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, and China have shown four different efficacy results, ranging from 50.4 percent to 90 percent, raising questions on its potency.
Galvez said the FDA has been reviewing the available data, reiterating that only vaccines deemed to be safe and effective will be given emergency approval in the Philippines.
He had repeatedly defended the government’s decision to procure jabs from Sinovac and claimed it was offering its vaccine for a cheaper price than the US-based pharmaceutical firms.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly backed the coronavirus vaccines developed by China, a nation he has pivoted the country to in his years in office, saying all jabs are the same despite varying efficacy rates.
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go supported Galvez, saying: “I trust that our vaccine czar will always uphold the interest of the Filipino people when negotiating for our vaccines. After all, these procurements by the national government are done through multi-lateral agreements with fund managers such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.”
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon argued that the government cannot assert confidentiality of prices of vaccines from Sinovac as Galvez Jr. already signed the term sheet for its procurement.
Drilon cited a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Chavez versus Public Estates Authority where the High Tribunal ruled that the public is entitled to know each stage of negotiations.
“My message to Secretary Galvez, you said that you have signed the term sheet (with Sinovac). If there is a term sheet, then there are already details on the prices, volume, and delivery schedule.
That is no longer confidential because once the supply agreement is signed, that will be the deal that should be followed,” Drilon said.
“For me, Secretary Galvez, this is your obligation to inform the people. These are public funds. The public has the power to ask for information in accordance with the Constitution and the Supreme Court,” he added. (With Hananeel Bordey)