PH President expresses hope on country’s recovery

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has assured the public on Friday that the country will be “back to normal” by December as coronavirus vaccine trials in multiple countries reached final stages of development.

In a taped public address, President Duterte has expressed optimism that the Philippines can secure supply from one of those countries especially from China for the country’s mass immunization before the end of the year.

“I promise you by the grace of God I hope by December we would be back to normal. Huwag ninyo ‘yang new normal, new normal kasi sabi ko nga noon pag-umpisa natin hintayin lang natin ‘yung vaccine,” he said.

Citing a Chinese official, President Duterte said China made an assurance that it will prioritize the Philippines for the supply of COVID-19 vaccine.

“The Philippines is a friendly close neighbor to China. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the two countries have been standing together with mutual assistance, turning epidemic cooperation a new highlight in bilateral…”

There are three top candidates for the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Among those in the final stages of clinical trials are China, US and the United Kingdom.

Once a vaccine becomes available, President Duterte said his government will prioritize immunizing low-income households or the recipients of cash assistance from the government. Middle-income families as well as the members of the police and the military will also be prioritized.

To avoid politicizing the free mass vaccination process, the President has instructed the military to lead the effort.

“Military lang. Bahala na. I’m asking the Armed Forces, I’m asking General Lorenzana. Kayo man ring ang… There’s the setup, kaya may Task Force tayo. But the implementing arm, military,” he said.

During the meeting with the President, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, said the government will tap the Philippine International Trading Corp. under trade department to procure the vaccine from a company chosen by the Department of Health (DOH). The government eyes to immunize 20 million Filipinos.

The finance chief said the government will allot $400 million or roughly P20 billion to buy the vaccine, which will be funded by the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and Land Bank (LBP). It is payable in two or three years, he added.

“So certainly by late this year, if it’s available, we can already buy it. So it should be — it should be available for free to the lowest, to the poorest of the poor first in this country,” Domiguez said.

“Once the vaccine is available, I’m sure the economy now can be fully open and we can start — not the new normal, the normal life,” he added. (PND)

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