[MANILA] The Philippines will speed up private companies' vaccine orders after President Rodrigo Duterte agreed that they be allowed to import vaccines "at will." Companies can choose where to source the vaccines, Mr Duterte said at a televised briefing late Monday, adding that "business people can give these vaccines to their employees, so that the economy will be opened." Private companies are still required to enter into a deal with the government and the vaccine manufacturer to secure supplies. However, the process will be fast-tracked and businesses no longer have to pool orders, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a separate briefing Tuesday.
Vaccines bought by businesses will be tax-free and cleared faster by the customs agency, said Carlito Galvez, head of the government's vaccine procurement efforts.
The Philippines' vaccination campaign is lagging behind its Southeast Asian neighbors as it faces a new surge in infections and an economic recession that may persist into this quarter.
The nation's key economic area plunged back into another lockdown for a week starting March 29 as coronavirus cases surge to a record. The government will give 1,000 pesos (S$28.9) each to 22.9 million individuals affected by the one-week enhanced community quarantine imposed on the capital and nearby areas, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said.