Malacañang on Thursday said Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccines remained the Philippines’ top choice for the national vaccination program set to launch in 2021.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque made the remark after the Washington Post reported that Sinovac had been bribing China’s drug regulator for vaccine approvals from 2002 to 2011.

“The target remains that Sinovac will be the first that we can use to vaccinate our people and it will be in the first quarter of next year,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.

Roque said the government would not receive payments for fast-tracked Covid-19 vaccine authorization.

“Consistent po tayo na papayagan lang nating magamit ang mga bakuna na napatunayan nang ligtas at mabisa laban sa Covid-19,” he said after being asked if the government was concerned of Sinovac’s bribery history.

“Buong-buo po ang tiwala ni presidente kay [Food and Drug Administration chief Eric Domingo], so pagdating po diyan sa mga allegations on bribery, tingin ko po ay hindi mangyayari iyan sa Pilipinas,” he added.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Wednesday said the Philippines would look into reports on Sinovac’s practices.

“We are aware of what is happening. Part of the work is for the VEP (vaccine expert panel) to assess the veracity of such report, kung merong katotohahan nito,” Duque said in an online forum.

Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccines have reached the final stage of clinical trials. John Ezekiel J. Hirro