President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said the slow start of the country’s vaccination drive was partly his fault, as he decried anew the supposed vaccine inequity worldwide.

Duterte has repeatedly accused rich countries of hoarding Covid-19 vaccines and lamented how poor nations such as the Philippines had been forced to settle for leftover jabs.

In a “Talk to the People” address, the president said it was difficult to negotiate with manufacturers for Covid-19 vaccines especially during the early days of the pandemic.

“Hirap na hirap tayo noon kasi wala naman tayong manufacturing company ng bakuna dito sa Pilipinas at nakikipagagawan tayo ng bakuna sa ibang bayan,” he said.

“At kung mayroon man nagkasala diyan, aminin ko na lang kasi wala man rin akong magawa. Gusto kong bumili, wala naman akong mabilihan. At kung makipag-contest ako doon sa mga mayaman sa bilihan ng bakuna, eh talagang huli ako. So ‘yan ang dapat ninyong maintindihan,” he added.

Duterte also said Filipinos might celebrate a “better” Christmas this year compared to 2020.

He said his government was confident that “most, if not all” major cities in the country could surpass the 50 percent vaccination target by December.

“The challenge is now to further speed up our vaccination rollout, especially in the provinces, in the key cities and municipalities to achieve our target of at least 50 percent of the country’s target population by the end of the year,” he said.

In Christmas 2020, the Duterte government asked for the public’s strict compliance with health protocols and discouraged usual traditions and celebrations to avoid Covid-19.

The Philippines began its Covid-19 vaccination on March 1.

In two recent Covid-19 resilience and recovery rankings by Bloomberg and Nikkei Asia, the country figured last.

The Bloomberg ranking had the Philippines last among 53 countries in terms of pandemic resilience based on indicators such as quality of healthcare, vaccination coverage, severity of lockdowns and restrictions, progress on restarting travel and easing border curbs, among others.

Nikkei Asia’s report evaluated 121 countries’ infection management, vaccine rollouts and social mobility.

The Philippines has more than 23 million residents fully vaccinated against Covid-19. It aims to vaccinate up to 90 percent of its population to achieve herd immunity. John Ezekiel J. Hirro