Let private sector help

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - March 24, 2021 - 12:00am

This COVID pandemic is a crisis that is too big for our government to handle by itself. Yet, they are continuously blocking the private sector from helping.

During the course of the pandemic last year, the government banned the private sector from getting vaccines. Then the government failed to secure a national supply for the Filipino population in a timely manner… they dropped the ball.

Early this year, the private sector got the government to agree to a deal where large and medium-sized companies could negotiate with AstraZeneca to bring in doses, but half of what they buy must go to the government, and DOH controls everything.

Over the weekend, Sen. Ralph Recto denounced an attempt to impose a ban on some private companies from buying vaccines and helping vaccinate their employees.

“What is wrong with these people in the DOH and NTF that they will not allow private wealth to be used for public welfare?” Sen. Recto asked.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. in a tweet, criticized a “village idiot” who is supposedly preparing an administrative order which would prevent companies “from procuring and donating vaccines to their employees and the government.”

“Wow, you’d think they were Nazis, but they’re short, stupid and ugly,” Secretary Locsin tweeted.

In fairness to the government, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. clarified a day after that the “village idiot” agreed to revise the draft internal rules and regulations.  Private companies who want to import vaccines for their employees can do so, but their supply contracts must include the government.

Then there are the Binondo-based Chinese newspapers that reported NTF chief Carlito Galvez Jr. disapproved the vaccine importation request of the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FCCCII).

The reports echoed Secretary Locsin’s lament via another tweet that the FCCCII was being blocked from importing 500,000 doses of the Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac after a deal worth P325 million had already been signed.

But eager not to displease Galvez, FFCCCII president Henry Lim Bon Liong clarified Galvez did not outright disapprove the importation. Lim explained that Galvez only wanted to prioritize the arrival of vaccines for medical frontliners.

Nevertheless, Lim reassured the government they are not crowding out government procurement of vaccines, but are just seeking their own allocation to help economic frontliners, employees, and workers – mostly MSMEs nationwide.

But why does the government want total control of vaccine importation?

Blogger Leo Alejandrino, a retired banker writing the blog Heneral Lunacy, offered a plausible explanation.

“The government wants control over the supply because the vaccines will be used for political campaigning… Are vaccines being timed so certain candidates can claim credit for them?

“A monopoly on imports is essential to the business model of corrupt government officials.”

At a time when we need the whole country working as one, the Duterte officials should welcome everyone offering help.

DOH said it would take charge of everything, but as usual, it has not done much. Now that we are almost there, we are finding out that there is really no plan that’s ready to roll.

The private sector is getting antsy. So, Joey Concepcion got a consensus from leading companies for them to make arrangements as a group so the vaccines are not spoiled when they finally arrive.

“We want to help the government so that we can execute the vaccine rollout in the fastest and most efficient way possible. Extending our help to the government, we will also pay for the logistics and rollout for the government’s frontline workers that will be covered by our donations. Our premise here is economic recovery.

“When we decided to buy the vaccines, that’s on the idea of saving both lives and livelihoods. We know that the vaccines are the only solution for this pandemic, and when it was made available by AstraZeneca in October and November, the big conglomerates pitched in despite the risk since it was not yet approved by MHRA (UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) and our own FDA at that time.

“We are expecting the first batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine to arrive by May to June, we have been proactive…

“Allowing us to execute, we could focus on the vaccination of our employees, the LGUs could focus on its constituents, and the national government could focus on the rest that are not covered. We need a fast and almost perfect rollout and the private sector could do this for its employees,” Concepcion said.

In a Zoom meeting last March 17, it was announced that Zuellig Pharma would take care of the vaccines from arrival at the port, storage, app development for registration, securing several sites for the dose-administration infrastructure.

Zuellig is the best equipped locally with the latest blockchain technology, latest cold chain facilities, Concepcion said.

More and more countries are leveraging the private sector to speed up herd immunity. DOH and IATF are just being weird.

In our neighborhood, Indonesia has authorized an independent private sector COVID-19 vaccination scheme that allows companies to buy their vaccines at their own cost to cover their employees and dependents. Some 8000+ companies have signed up for the program.

India has also approved a large-scale private sector participation with the government roll-out. This will also add about 20,000 private hospitals on top of 10,000 public hospitals. Private sector healthcare providers are also allowed to charge recipients $4 to $5 for AZ vaccine.

We now have a rather serious surge of COVID cases. But when asked about this spike, Duque claims to have been taken by surprise. Doesn’t he read DOH data?

“Mas maraming nagkakahawaan. Ngayon na tumaas. O, para muna tayo. Ganu’n talaga, e. We have to bounce. Parang cha-cha-cha ka e. ‘Di ba, ‘di ba? One step back, two steps forward,” he said.

Simply pathetic clown.

If Duque didn’t drop the ball, vaccines would have arrived early. Hotspots like NCR can be given priority over regions with less cases, and we would not be in this crisis.

Hopefully, the government gets its act together because our lives depend on being vaccinated soonest.

That’s expecting too much, I know. Village idiots, as Sec Locsin puts it.



Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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