President just joking, no need to sell Philippine assets — Diokno

MANILA, July 24 (Mabuhay) — The Philippines does not need to sell its assets to avail of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines, and President Rodrigo Duterte was only joking when he raised the possibility, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno said Thursday.

In a virtual briefing with the House of Representatives Committee on Economic Affairs, Diokno assured lawmakers that the Philippines has enough funds for its war chest against the coronavirus.

“Hindi natin kailangan magbenta ng asset para maka-avail. Nagbibiro lang po si Presidente,” he told lawmakers.

Diokno was responding to a question regarding the Philippines’ financial position amid increased spending due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Just this Tuesday, Duterte again raised the possibility of selling Philippine assets to make funds to procure vaccines against COVID-19 once available.

“If there is a thing that develops which is really good for you, mauna ako. Mag-utang ako. Magpabili ako kung saan puwede magpabili ng lupa. Ibili ko ng medicine,” he said.

Duterte mentioned such a possibility in April, saying this would be considered if funds for the fight against the disease would run out.

This was reinforced by Malacañang earlier this month when Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. on July 3 said assets would be sold to ensure that the Philippines could pay for vaccines.

“Basta po mayroon ng gamot diyan sa COVID-19. Basta may bakuna, ibebenta natin lahat ng ari-arian ng gobyerno para makabili po tayo para sa ating mga kababayan,” he said.

On Thursday, however, Diokno said the Philippines has enough funds to finance this as he cited the country’s foreign exchange reserves.

Latest data available from the BSP show that the gross international reserves (GIR) stood at a record $93.32 billion as of end-June.

“Let me assure you na hindi natin kailangan magbenta ng assets… Hindi natin kailangan. Maraming pera ang Pilipinas,” Diokno said.

The World Health Organization has also assured the Philippines of an equitable share of the COVID-19 vaccine once available.

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