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WTO waiver on COVID-19 vaccine patents supports self-reliance

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star
WTO waiver on COVID-19 vaccine patents supports self-reliance
Residents of Marikina City line up for a booster shot at the Marikina Sports Complex on January 3, 2022.
Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines expects the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement on waiver of COVID-19 vaccine patents to support the country’s program on vaccine self-reliance.

Negotiations during the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) produced the Geneva Package containing decisions on pressing issues including a patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines valid for five years.

Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo told reporters that the Philippine government, with the support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), has been working on a vaccine self-reliance program.

“Now, we are hoping that with this decision on the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver for COVID-19 vaccines, plus with the automatic, mandated review of possible inclusion of therapeutics and equipment, this could be an added pillar on which our vaccine self-reliance program, focusing of course on COVID-19 vaccines, would stand on,” Rodolfo  said.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) official, the Philippines could also benefit from the decision in terms of having more possible partners for COVID-19 vaccine production.

Rodolfo revealed that the country has two promising possible partners for the manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines.

Within six months from the date of the agreement, WTO members will decide on its extension to cover the production and supply of COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.

Rodolfo said the inclusion of COVID-19 therapeutics is important for the Philippine government since the country has local capability in this aspect.

The Board of Investments has approved a project of a local pharmaceutical firm for the production of molnupiravir, an oral therapy for COVID-19 patients.

“We will already start the advocacy campaign within the WTO…to really argue inclusion of therapeutics while at the same time working also with our stakeholders to strengthen their capability for therapeutics and expand,” Rodolfo added.

Aside from the waiver on COVID-19 vaccine patents, the Geneva Package also includes decisions on fisheries subsidies, as well as food safety and agriculture and WTO reform.

“Definitely, the ministerial conference resulted in a positive outcome but this is just the beginning of the more important task ahead of working together with our stakeholders and also with other national government agencies, branches of government including the legislative branch to take full advantage of the MC outcomes,” Rodolfo said.

COVID-19 VACCINE

WTO

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