MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed on Monday to prioritise buying COVID-19 vaccine to be made available by Russia or China, while taking a swipe at pharmaceutical firms of western nations asking for advance payment for their offers.
Duterte has expressed optimism that the Southeast Asian country, which has recorded the region’s highest number of coronavirus cases at nearly 266,000, would be “back to normal” by December, pinning his hopes on the availability of vaccines.
“We will give preference to Russia and China provided that their vaccine is as good as any other in the market,” he said in a late-night televised address.
Any vaccine purchase by the Philippines, however, will have to undergo bidding process, he said.
The Philippine government has had talks with a number of potential vaccine suppliers, including Russia, China, U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc. It also planned to hold talks with Australian biotech giant CSL Ltd.
Duterte singled out China, which he said was unlike other countries seeking “reservation fee” or advance payment.
“The one good thing about China is you do not have to beg, you do not have to plead,” he said. “One thing wrong about the western countries, it’s all profit, profit, profit.”
Moscow and Manila have agreed to work on clinical trials for Russia’s vaccine.
Duterte did not name any pharmaceutical companies seeking advance payment, but he warned their representatives in Manila to go home or “I’ll kick your ass”.
He said the Philippines’ procurement law prohibits the government from buying anything that is non-existent or has yet to be produced.
“They want you to finance their research and the perfection of the vaccine,” he said. “They want cash advance before they deliver the vaccine. If that’s the case, then all of us will die.”