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Duque, Locsin trade barbs over botched 50-million syringe deal

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Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III on Monday said that the allegation of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. is a “lie,” and that the Department of Health (DOH) did not drop the ball on a 50-million syringe procurement deal.

Addressing the health chief’s statement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., lashed back at Duque and said, “Don’t ever, Duque, ever, question my motives.”

Locsin said the health department should have just responded to the issue “professionally on the right, not junior level.”

“Say no and explain why. The offeror answered back devastatingly,” he added.

Locsin said he is the “only one out there fighting lies with truth.”

The former newspaper publisher and TV/radio host said nobody can stop him from exposing the truth in social media. He is the most active Cabinet member on Twitter.

In a radio interview, Duque also called the allegation of Locsin as “unfair.”

Duque said that if they gave in to what Locsin wanted—to follow the price of the supplier—they will violate Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

On Sunday, the DOH  and the National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 assured that it is continuously ensuring enough supplies of syringes—both 0.3ml syringes (microsyringes) compatible for Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, and 0.5ml auto-disable (AD) syringes for all other vaccines.

“We are continuously ensuring enough supplies of syringes for our Covid-19 vaccination program—noting that 0.3ml syringes are different from 0.5ml syringes, and as such would have varying prices,”  said Atty. Charade Mercado-Grande, undersecretary of the Health Regulation Team.

Grande said that they are assuring the public that the DOH is continuously ensuring a “sufficient stockpile of syringes, and that processes to obtain these are consistent with the provisions of RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Act.”

The DOH and NTF clarified that two batches of procurement through Unicef were undertaken the first batch, funded through the savings from calendar year 2020 Unicef procurement, included 8 million 0.3ml syringes worth P29.1 million and were completely delivered in October 2021.

The second batch, financed through the Asian Development Bank, consisted of 44 million syringes amounting to about P152.6 million.

Of this second batch, 4 million will be delivered in December 2021 and remaining 40 million during the first quarter of 2022 due to global supply shortage.

As of December 12, 3,653,000 syringes out of the 4 million have already been delivered and the rest is expected this coming week. The first and second batches of procurement through Unicef totals to 52 million of 0.3 syringes at around P3.25 per piece or USD 6.5 cents (P50 = $1), which includes cost for logistics.

“Even with the delays in delivery of microsyringes, we made sure that we could still administer the Pfizer vaccines that we procured by using tuberculin syringes. The government, together with LGUs and the private sector, is working hard to increase our vaccine coverage to protect more Filipinos against Covid-19. Through our bayanihan, we achieved 2.82 million jabs in one day,” said Secretary Vivencio “Vince” Dizon, Presidential Adviser on Covid-19 Response.

Further, the DOH also procured 100 million pieces of 0.5ml AD syringes last April 2021 for P2.38 per piece, from an initial approved budget of P2.50 per piece.

Thus, the DOH and the NTF claimed, the P2.38 per piece or $4.8 cents (P50 = $ 1) was used as a basis for the ongoing emergency procurement of another batch of 50 million pieces of 0.5ml AD syringes.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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