President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to continue answering the Senate’s queries on the government’s deals with coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine makers, Malacañang said Wednesday.
This, after some senators have questioned the government’s supposed reluctance to disclose the prices of Covid-19 vaccines.
In an interview with CNN Philippines’ “The Source,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte has wanted Galvez and Duque to respond to the questions about the government’s ongoing negotiations for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.
“In fairness to the President, [his instruction to Galvez and Duque was,] ‘Go to the Senate, continue answering questions, continue the way in the manner that you have been answering,’” Roque said. “So, Secretary Galvez and Secretary Duque, if the Senate will have a hearing this Friday, will be there.”
The Senate Committee of the Whole is scheduled to resume its public hearing into the government’s Covid-19 vaccination plan on Friday (January 22).
Senator Panfilo Lacson, in a privilege speech delivered Monday, proposed the holding of an executive session with Galvez to discuss the cost of Covid-19 vaccines.
Apart from an executive session, Galvez and Duque are also expected to have an “informal” meeting with the senators, Roque said.
“I think there will be informal discussions I’ve heard and let’s see what happens,” he said.
‘Leave if verbally abused’
Roque on Tuesday questioned the Senate’s intent to hold more hearings, considering that Galvez had already explained how a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA) prevented the government from disclosing the prices of Covid-19 vaccines.
Should the senators “verbally” abuse Galvez and Duque, Duterte gave the two officials the “license to stand up and leave” the meeting, Roque said.
“[The President said], ‘If they become abusive to you (Galvez and Duque) verbally, just stand up and leave. And if they cite you in contempt, I will come and fetch you.’ So, that’s the context,” he said.
On Tuesday, Senator Christopher Lawrence Go said Duterte had already directed Galvez to disclose to Senate President Vicente Sotto III the details of the vaccine deals for the sake of transparency.
The national government has earmarked PHP82.5 billion for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.
It has also signed term sheet agreements with pharmaceutical firms Novovax, Moderna, and AstraZeneca to supply the Philippines with 30 million doses, 20 million doses, and 17 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, respectively.
The Philippines initially secured around 25 million doses of Sinovac vaccine, with the first 50,000 doses expected to arrive in February. (PNA)