Senate of the Philippines

Recto files resolution urging gov’t to let LGUs, private sector buy COVID-19 vaccines

Mara Cepeda

VACCINE TALKS. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto gestures during a Senate hearing.

File photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto says his proposal would ease the burden of the national government and help the country recover faster from the pandemic

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto wants the Senate to formally ask the national government to allow local government units (LGUs) and the private sector to secure their own coronavirus vaccine deals. 

In Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) No. 617 filed on Wednesday, January 20, Recto said giving LGUs and the private sector the leeway to directly buy the vaccines from manufacturers can help hasten the Philippines’ recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Allowing the LGUs and the private sector to procure their own vaccines will prevent the spread of the disease and hasten the efforts to further open up the economy, which in effect will restore and create more jobs for the people,” said Recto in PSR 617.

He also argued that this would ease the burden of the national government and allow it to focus more on ensuring that the vulnerable and disadvantaged sectors are inoculated against COVID-19.

Recto said if the Duterte government allows it, LGUs and the private sector can only buy the vaccines that have already secured emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Local officials and the private sector, however, would still have to comply with the documentary, procedural, and reportorial requirements of the Department of Health, FDA, and other national agencies.

So far, only Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine has secured an EUA from FDA

Frustrated by the pace of vaccine negotiations, senators floated during a January 11 hearing their proposals to allow LGUs and private groups to deal directly with COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers. 

Different LGUs have started announcing that they have set aside funds or have signed deals with vaccine companies to secure supply of the scarce good for their respective localities. 

But one requirement in the deals was to involve the national government, similar to tripartite deals entered into by private groups. 

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr already told senators that allowing LGUs and private groups to directly buy COVID-19 vaccines is not yet possible.

This is because “no company” would engage in deals that did not involve national governments of other countries, which have only been granting emergency use approvals to COVID-19 vaccines. 

Must Read

EXPLAINER: What to expect once COVID-19 vaccines arrive in the Philippines

EXPLAINER: What to expect once COVID-19 vaccines arrive in the Philippines

The Duterte government is eyeing to kick off its COVID-19 vaccination program as early as February 2021. 

The government will first distribute the COVID-19 vaccines to priority groups including frontline health workers in high risk areas such as Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Cebu City, and Davao City. 

COVID-19 has infected over half a million people in the Philippines as of Tuesday, January 19. It has claimed 9,909 lives, while 465,988 people have recovered from the disease. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.