PH can tap up to ₱24B from ADB for coronavirus vaccine purchases in 2021

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 16) — The Philippines may borrow up to $500 million (about ₱24 billion) and seek assistance from the Asian Development Bank for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.

ADB country director Kelly Bird on Wednesday confirmed the Philippines is among the countries that can tap the $9-billion Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility or APVAX for developing member-states.

APVAX will provide financing schemes for countries to buy doses, and assist members through the vaccination process. There are loan ceilings per country, Bird added, allotted based on population size.

"We are in discussions with the government on tapping into that facility in financing vaccine procurement for 2021," Bird said in a Wednesday media briefing. "Under the facility, the Philippines can access somewhere around $400-$500 million."

Earlier this week, Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. said the Philippines will be using ADB as its procurement unit for vaccines to ensure a transparent and corruption-free process.

No country has tapped the facility since its announcement last week, with Bird adding that details of the procurement process and agreements are still being finalized. Numerous countries are "interested," he said.

"What we're doing is going through the costings with them (government) and they will decide on how much they want to borrow from from ADB," Bird added.

APVAX is a parallel initiative to the COVAX facility, a joint effort of 64 higher-income economies to ensure global vaccine supply under the watch of the World Health Organization.

The ADB has 67 member-economies, including 48 from within Asia.

Galvez has denied the Philippines was late in negotiating with vaccine makers in securing supply, but said by now, developed nations have already cornered 80% of the immediately available doses.

READ: Despite promises of solidarity on COVID-19, rich countries are snapping up the supply of promising vaccines

US drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have secured emergency use approvals in the United States, United Kingdom, and Singapore and are now being injected on health workers and priority residents. The country is still in the middle of talks with Pfizer and expects shipments of doses by the second quarter of 2021 at the earliest.

RELATED: PH eyes to seal deal for Sinovac's 25 million vaccine doses this week

The APVAX credit lines are on top of the regular lending programs of the ADB, which extended $4.2 billion (about ₱200 billion) loans this year and at least $3.57 billion (about ₱171 billion) more more in 2021. 

The regional lender based in Metro Manila earlier extended grants and loans for the Philippines' COVID-19 response, mainly to support increased testing and quarantine facilities at the onset of the local outbreak.

Bird noted a "significant downward trend" in infections in the Philippines compared to the peak a few months ago, beating a trend of second waves of infections in key cities abroad.