At P10,266/Filipino, PH’s virus response lags behind peers’

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With at least P74.5 billion set aside in the 2021 national budget for direct health and medical response to COVID-19, including mass vaccination, the Philippines’ war chest to fight the pandemic has risen to $23.11 billion (about P1.11 trillion), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.

The Manila-based ADB’s COVID-19 policy database showed the package of fiscal measures put in place by the Philippines as of Jan. 11 this year further increased from $21.7 billion in November last year, $21.5 billion in September, $21.1 billion in July, $20.1 billion in June, $19.8 billion in May and $16.5 billion in April.

The Philippines’ updated COVID-19 response package is equivalent to 6.28 percent of the 2019 gross domestic product, the first time to breach the 6-percent mark.

Divided among the population, the package per capita is $213.74 or about P10,266 for every Filipino.

The sum of the Philippine government’s COVID-19 policies to date is the sixth largest in Southeast Asia, behind Indonesia’s $115.33 billion, Singapore’s $89.14 billion, Thailand’s $84.09 billion, Malaysia’s $80.78 billion, and Vietnam’s $26.97 billion.

The Philippines’ COVID-19 package exceeded Cambodia’s $2.21 billion, Brunei Darussalam’s $318.12 million, Timor-Leste’s $254 million, Myanmar’s $98.64 million and Laos’ $30.35 million.

On a per capita basis, six Southeast Asian countries have bigger COVID-19 response: Singapore, $15,629.10 per person; Malaysia, $2,528.24; Thailand, $1,207.77; Brunei Darussalam, $734.21; Indonesia, $426.18; and Vietnam, $279.57.

The Philippines’ response per capita is higher than Timor-Leste’s $196.42, Cambodia’s $134.05, Myanmar’s $1.843, and Laos’ $4.23.

The ADB noted the P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget earmarked P72.5 billion for the purchase and distribution of vaccines and another P2 billion for additional personal protective equipment.

The budget items for vaccine deployment included P2.5 billion in the Department of Health’s budget, plus P70 billion in unprogrammed appropriations to be financed by loans or new revenues.

In a statement on Friday, the Department of Finance said P70 billion or about $1.46 billion would be sourced from loans to be extended by ADB, the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Washington-based World Bank.

World Bank documents had shown the Philippines sought a fresh $300-million loan for the vaccine program, which the lender’s board was to approve in the first quarter of 2021.

The ADB, for its part, had committed to lend the Philippines $325 million under its regional financing called Asia-Pacific Vaccine Access Facility.

An AIIB representative sought for comment by the Inquirer did not give details on its discussions with the Philippine government, saying only it was “reviewing member requests for COVID-19 vaccine financing under the AIIB’s Crisis Recovery Facility.”


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