Palace: Up to Ombudsman to look into Mon Tulfo's plan to distribute Sinopharm
Ramon Tulfo

Palace: Up to Ombudsman to look into Mon Tulfo's plan to distribute Sinopharm

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - February 24, 2021 - 7:05pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is leaving it to the Ombudsman to determine if there was conflict of interest in special envoy to China Ramon Tulfo's interest to become a local distributor of vaccines developed by Chinese firm Sinopharm.

Tulfo, who is also a newspaper columnist, previously revealed that he was inoculated last October with COVID-19 jabs developed by Sinopharm and that he has applied to be a distributor of the vaccine in the Philippines. 

He has also admitted that the Sinopharm vaccines were smuggled into the country.

Tulfo has maintained that he did nothing wrong when he had himself inoculated and that he never used his post as special envoy in dealing with Sinopharm.

Asked at a press briefing on Monday if he thought there was conflict of interest in Tulfo's application to become a distributor of Sinopharm vaccines, the president's spokesman said: "We have no opinion whatsoever. We leave that to the Ombudsman."

"We still have no opinion because, as I said, I do not know if he has been reappointed as special envoy. These appointments are renewed every six months," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque added.

READ: AFP personnel have received Sinopharm vaccine, Duterte says

Roque was mum on Tulfo's claim that President Rodrigo Duterte had spoken with a certain John Boja, supposedly the local representative of Sinopharm, to ask for the vaccine.

"I'm not belying anything that Mon Tulfo said, all I'm saying is that's his article, please ask him, not me," the Palace spokesman said.

"Now, whether or not he (Duterte) has talked to a representative, I don't know. If I will admit, I was in this adjacent room when Mon Tulfo was there but I could not really hear what they were discussing ‘no," he added.

"But for me, I do'’t understand the big deal about the Mon Tulfo write up. That's an account of Mon Tulfo and if you want verification please contact Mon Tulfo because I cannot answer on his behalf."

Roque, nevertheless, claimed that Duterte did not deal directly with Sinopharm.

"In fact, we still cannot import Sinopharm on a commercial basis, not even commercial on a large-scale basis beyond the compassionate use license issued by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)," he said, referring to a special authorization from the Food and Drug Authority for the Presidential Security Group to use Sinopharm jabs. 

READ: Duterte tells PSG to 'shut up' on use of smuggled COVID-19 vaccines during probe

The compassionate use license was issued months after members of the PSG were vaccinated with the smuggled vaccines, an incident that has since been justified by the government.

Roque maintained that patronizing smuggled products is not a government policy.

"There is no such policy because if there was, commercial quantities of the vaccines that have not been approved would have spread. But we are waiting for FDA's action on this matter," he said.

With regard to Tulfo's claim that Duterte wanted to be vaccinated with Sinopharm jabs but was dissuaded by his advisers from doing so, Roque said the president really prefers the vaccine manufactured by the Chinese firm.

"But there is no EUA (emergency use authorization) yet (for the Sinopharm vaccines). That is the reason why the doctors who are advisers of the President refused," Roque said.  

Pressed whether he thought that getting vaccines that have not secured an EUA is dangerous, Roque replied: "I don't have a reaction to that because during a pandemic, I understand that many people want to have a protection but what we are saying to everybody is we should wait for it to undergo the process for our own interest."

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