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Last Dec. 15, I was interviewed on Agenda with Cito Beltran at One News, where I shared our progress with AstraZeneca and the green light to purchase another batch of vaccines on top of the initially procured. Here are the highlights of my conversation with Cito.
Cito: You have been nonstop really pushing for the procurement of vaccines, particularly for the private sectors. Can you give our viewers an actual picture…where are we and what’s the situation?
Joey: Well, AstraZeneca came out with this program of zero profit. And initially, Tessie Coson of SM had initial discussions with AstraZeneca and she asked me if I could help enlarge the group participation. So, that’s how basically Go Negosyo got involved here because we’ve been at the forefront since March in all these testing initiatives, especially the pooled PCR testing and the list goes on.
Cito: What is your timeline for all of this?
Joey: Well, the first part of the orders will be coming in May-June onward. So it’s not like coming in this month or January, it will be coming in basically May and June. AstraZeneca has applied for the approval, and hopefully, the MHRA, which is the FDA version in their country, gives the approval for the use of AstraZeneca. That’s very important so that our government will also be able to purchase the AstraZeneca vaccines. Without the majority approval, FDA will not be able to grant its use for emergency use.
Cito: How many doses are you going to get around or how many million of Filipinos are gonna get it?
Joey: First part of the order is close to 2.6 million. Hopefully, we reach to two million again to close in at five million for part one and part two. I think there’s a program for LGUs, so that may be another portion. The government, definitely, is going to have it, they’re just waiting for regulatory approvals. But definitely, Astra has allocation, huge allocation. We’re a small player in this whole thing and we are just the first because we can take the risk, but if the government can take the risk, they will also be the first. I just want you to hear that. They’re just following the current local rules and laws of our country.
Cito: If AstraZeneca can do it, why can’t all the other companies do it? Meaning, sell us the product, the vaccine, without profit. Has that ever been discussed or are there companies sounding you off on that possibility – we can sell it to you at cost as well – anything like that?
Joey: None. Because basically the programs here, especially of Astra, are only allowed to be sold to the government. So what we are basically is the conduit, we are the funder, but we donate it right away, we cannot get those vaccines and store it for ourselves. Those vaccines go to the government and it will be handled by the DOH. The whole implementation from warehousing these vaccines and making the implementation or the vaccination of our people will be under the Department of Health.
Cito: Well, that’s good to know because I was beginning to get this impression, and I think a lot of people had the impression that the private sector will store their share of the vaccine in some private hospital or facility and the donation to the DOH, the DOH will take care. So you’re saying everything will be under the DOH?
Joey: Everything will be under the government because this is a donation to the government from the private sector. There will be a logistics summit that’s being held GO NEGOSYO… From B4
this 16th by Secretary Galvez, and the T3 group will discuss that. The private sector can suggest and we can suggest. In the end, it’s their decision whether they will handle it or they will use a third party, which I believe that they will use a third party to help them in the process of logistics. I think that is the challenging part.
But in the end, it is their responsibility in the full course. From the moment we get the vaccines, it’s there’s and they will honor what is in the tripartite agreement. In fact, the tripartite agreement was done in a very equitable way whereby the donor gets at least 50 percent of what it’s donating for its employees. Usec. Vergeire reiterated that during an interview and said yes, the private sector is going to take their share, both permanent and contractual. Many of us do outsource also our certain activities to contractors.
Cito: P1 billion, are you getting any of it back, especially if you’re donating up to half a billion to government?
Joey: No, we’re getting it back by helping the Filipino people survive this pandemic. I think in the end, all businesses are taking the benefit from it whether large or small, or micro. We’re helping the economy and the private sector, which we have been doing from the very start with testing and now with the cure which is the vaccine. We donated so much on testing and right now, we have the solution, the vaccine. We all want to open the economy and you can see many countries get devastated. You can look at America today with their surge, a number of businesses suffered. We don’t want that next wave to happen here and the only solution is the vaccine.
That’s why we are doing our best and we’re getting the support from all of these people to support these programs. We give to the government, then it’s going to the health care workers. These are the people who sacrifice their lives for us, the frontliners, so it’s the Bayanihan spirit that will enable us to heal as one.
Cito: At this time when we’re struggling and facing so many challenges, guys like you give us inspiration to just keep slugging it out because if you’re not giving up, we have no reason to give up. Any message for our viewers, people out there.
Joey: Well, my message is, of course, we all want a Merry Christmas and we have to hold on, especially the microentrepreneurs. I know you’re facing a great challenge, but rest assured that both the public sector, the government, and the private sector are working hand in hand to really try to find the solution to this very serious crisis, and we will do whatever we can to really support everyone out there to survive this crisis. Let’s pray that in 2021, we will have a better year. I’m confident that 2021 will be a better year than 2020.
For further clarifications or expression of interest to join the ‘A Dose of Hope’ Project, you may contact the following:
Go Negosyo Senior Adviser/Project ARK Lead
Executive Secretary at the Office of Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship
Special Projects Associate at the Office of Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo