Senators are now convinced that vaccine czar and National Task Force on COVID-19 response chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. cannot fully-disclose the prices of coronavirus vaccines due to the Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA).
The development came after Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senators Panfilo Lacson, and Ronald Dela Rosa along with Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong held a meeting Wednesday night.
The meeting was conducted after President Rodrigo Duterte directed Galvez to disclose with Sotto the details of the vaccine negotiations that the government is currently pursuing.
“We were able to see all the necessary documents and proposed agreements. Indeed, there are non-disclosure agreements mandated by the [pharmaceutical] companies internationally. I will inform our colleagues on the important facts ASAP,” Sotto said in a text message to reporters.
“[General/Secretary] Galvez assured us through the agreements that there will be no room for overpricing by any person, entity, or group as all payments will go directly to the Pharma companies from the lending institution who will also set in place proper safeguards,” he added.
Despite the clarifications made by the vaccine czar, Sotto said Senate will push through with the continuation of the inquiry on vaccine deals and the government’s rollout plan.
“Hopefully, we will be able to elicit enough information to be able to convince our countrymen that the vaccines no matter what brand will be necessary, for us to defeat the virus,” he said.
In a separate statement, Lacson echoed Sotto’s statement, saying Galvez’s briefing with the lawmakers has “clarified a lot of issues and concerns raised by the senators that have remained unresolved.”
“We advised him to explain in tomorrow’s hearing the same way that he did last night, without violating the terms of the agreement with the vaccine suppliers,” he said.
The senators also committed to honor and respect the terms laid out in the CDAs so that they will not jeopardize the deliveries of vaccines in the country, Lacson said.
“We were shown the documents. And we have no doubt about Sec. Galvez’s integrity and his sincerity to accomplish his task,” he said but the lawmaker disclosed that he has warned the vaccine czar to be wary of the people whom he is working with.
“We advised Sec. Galvez to mind his back, front, left, and right sides. He may have the best of intentions but there may be people pushing him out front to do the talking and explaining to take advantage of his credibility while pursuing their own interests. He assured us that he will make it very hard for those people to even have an opening for that opportunity,” he said.
Earlier, Lacson and other senators repeatedly call Galvez to fully disclose the prices of vaccines being negotiated by the national government.
Lacson earlier mentioned the possibility of “overpricing” on the part of the Philippine government as he noted the sharp differences between the Sinovac’s cost in the country as compared to other Southeast Asian states.
The vaccine czar earlier explained that the Philippines may lose around 148 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines should he disclose its prices while they are still negotiating the agreement with pharmaceutical firms.