Hontiveros alarmed as underperforming firm is handling procurement of COVID-19 vaccines

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday expressed alarm over the involvement of Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC), an underperforming, little-known state firm in which a questionable P33.4 billion has been parked, in the importation of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Naghahagilap tayo ng pera para tulungan ang mga kababayan natin, eto pala we have 33 billion lying around, or rather lying on the lap of PITC. I support the Senate Minority Leader in his call to probe the PITC and the questionable parking of funds in this small, poorly performing firm. I also echo his concern and the concern of my colleagues about the capacity of the PITC to embark on the gargantuan task of procuring COVID-19 vaccines – vaccines that will be nothing short of a game-changer for the country and the world,” the senator added.

Hontiveros also noted that PITC subsidiary Philippine Pharma Procurement Inc. (PPPI) — the central procurement arm for all government agencies for the importation of drugs, medicines, and vaccines — has been suffering from continued losses for the last 13 years.

“I took a look at the Commission on Audit’s (COA) findings for the PPPI, and they have been running on a deficit. Lalo ako nag-aalala sa kakayanan natin to procure the vaccines – and therefore literally save lives without delay,” the senator said.

Quoting the COA report, Hontiveros said: “the PPPI’s condition has been adversely affected by continued losses for 13 years, resulting in a deficit of P448.973 million as of December 31, 2019, due to the Agency’s inability to meet targets in its operational plans.”

“Can we really rely on an agency with continued losses since 2013 and running on a deficit to provide the Philippines with the COVID-19 vaccine? Bakit natin pagkakatiwalaan ang ahensyang ito?” the senator asked.

Hontiveros then urged her colleagues in the Senate to act on Senate Resolution No. 479, a resolution she filed in July seeking a COA-led special audit of COVID-19-related spending by the government.

The senator added that there should be more accountability and transparency for the billions used for the country’s pandemic response.

“Ngayon, papunta na tayo sa vaccine. Sana naman maayos, malinis, at mabilis ang proseso ng procurement,” she concluded.