Senate probe into wasted vaccine package

A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a ‘Coronavirus COVID-19 vaccine’ sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken October 30, 2020. (REUTERS FILE PHOTO)

MANILA, Philippines — Former aide to former president Rodrigo Duterte backed calls on Monday for the government to release details of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) the Duterte administration had entered into with service providers. COVID-19 vaccines.

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, also said the health department (DOH) should explain why more than 31 million doses, valued at 15.6 billion pesos, were simply wasted due to logistical problems.

He said he would launch a Senate investigation and summon the former Cabinet officials who signed the NDAs as representatives of the Philippine government.

“I am for transparency. If it doesn’t violate anything, then the [NDAs] should now be disclosed,” Go told reporters.

“I’m always for the truth… And I’m sure former President Duterte is also for transparency,” he added.

During marathon Senate deliberations on the DOH’s 2023 budget proposal, Senator Pia Cayetano revealed that wasted vaccines accounted for only 12% of the total volume of vaccines the Philippines purchased and received as donations.

Cayetano, who defended the DOH budget, said it was within the allowable 30% waste rate set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“WHO then said up to 25% was acceptable. I don’t think that’s meant to be an excuse, but it just shows trends and realities,” the senator said.

But Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said it was unacceptable that billions of pesos of taxpayers’ money were wasted.

“Indeed, it is 15 billion pesos in the sewers. But it seems like it means nothing to them because [the wastage is] still “within acceptable limits,” Pimentel said.

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Norman D. Briggs