MANILA, Mar 12 (Mabuhay) — The Asian Development Bank on Friday announced its approval of a $400-million loan to help the Philippines purchase vaccines against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In a statement, the Manila-based multilateral lender said the Philippines became the first recipient of financing support under its Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility (APVAX).

“ADB’s support will boost the Philippine government’s urgent efforts to secure and deploy COVID-19 vaccines for all Filipinos, especially those who are vulnerable, such as frontline workers, the elderly, and poor and marginalized populations, as well as those at increased risk of severe illness,” said ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa.

“COVID-19 vaccines are critical to accelerating the recovery of the Philippine economy, rebuilding livelihoods, and restoring quality jobs,” Asakawa added.

According the ADB, the Second Health System Enhancement to Address and Limit COVID-19 under the APVAX (HEAL 2) project will assist the Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) “in procuring and ensuring delivery to the country of vaccines certified by the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX) and bilateral vaccine suppliers that meet APVAX eligibility criteria.”

Also, it noted that the project will be supported by a $300-million in co-financing from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

“The ADB and AIIB loans will together fund the procurement of up to 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for as many as 50 million Filipinos,” it said.

ADB said the HEAL 2 builds on and complements ADB’s Health System Enhancement to Address and Limit COVID-19 (HEAL) project, which was approved in August 2020.

In January 2021, the multilateral lender approved the reallocation of $25 million under the HEAL loan to fund the Philippine government’s advance payments to vaccine suppliers to secure the delivery of vaccines this year.

In Southeast Asia, the Philippines has one of the highest numbers of COVID-19 infections with more than 600,000 confirmed cases as of March 11.

APVAX is ADB’s $9-billion vaccine initiative offering rapid and equitable support to its developing members as they procure and deliver effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccines eligible for financing under the HEAL 2 loan must meet at least one of three APVAX criteria, namely: they have been selected for procurement through COVAX, prequalified by the World Health Organization, or their manufacture is authorized by a Stringent Regulatory Authority (SRA) in the country of production.

Any vaccine supply contract supported by ADB will follow ADB’s procurement rules and guidelines, including its anticorruption and integrity policy, the lender said.

Under the HEAL 2 loan agreement, ADB will pay vaccine suppliers directly, it said.

On the other hand, the ADB is providing technical advisory assistance to the government on vaccine procurement and its national vaccine road map through a development partner coordination working group set up by the Department of Finance.

Likewise, it delivering technical support to help the government implement and monitor its vaccine prioritization plan, medical waste management program, and vaccine information management system.

Moreover, the ADB is helping the Philippines expand the coverage of other much-needed routine vaccinations, such as those for the elderly and people with disabilities.

In addition to HEAL and HEAL 2, ADB has supported the Philippines’ comprehensive COVID-19 response through the following:

a $3 million grant in March 2020 to procure emergency medical supplies and establish a COVID-19 testing laboratory in San Fernando, Pampanga;

a $5 million grant in March 2020 to support emergency food supplies to more than 162,000 vulnerable households in Metro Manila and nearby provinces in April to May 2020;

a $1.5 billion loan in April 2020, which contributed to the government’s wage subsidy and social protection programs;

a $200 million loan in April 2020 to help the government finance emergency cash transfers to poor households; and

a $2 million grant to assist distance education during the pandemic by providing teachers’ training and learning tools to secondary school students from disadvantaged households enrolled in so-called “last mile schools” in far-flung areas.(MNS)

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