Malacañang on Tuesday denied that the national government was monopolizing the country’s procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

In a virtual presser, Palace spokesman Harry Roque stressed that local government units (LGUs) can only purchase Covid-19 vaccines through tripartite agreements that involve vaccine manufacturers and the national government.

“Ang LGUs po ay sumasang-ayon doon sa mga prinsipiyo na in-adopt po ng ating National Immunization Program, at ito nga po iyong sinasabi natin na magkakaroon ng geographical at saka ng sectoral priorities,” Roque said.

“So malinaw po ‘no na hindi po natin ipinagbabawal; wala pong monopoliya ang national government sa pagbili ng mga bakuna,” he added.

Several LGUs have already signed deals with British firm AstraZeneca for millions of vaccine doses.

Roque said the contracts for tripartite deals state that LGUs should shoulder the costs of the vaccines and their delivery, and lead the vaccination program for their constituents.

In a Senate inquiry on Monday, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the Food and Drug Administration was “monopolizing” the process of vaccine procurement by “leaving it all up to the national government.”

Recto said private companies should be allowed to purchase vaccines at their own risk.

However, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. asserted that the standard “global practice” was to have only national governments talk with manufacturers.

According to Galvez, at least 50,000 Filipinos are expected to be vaccinated by February this year. The country plans to vaccinate 50 to 70 million individuals by yearend. John Ezekiel J. Hirro