MANILA — The Philippine Embassy in Washington confirmed it recently organized a virtual forum aimed at providing pharmaceutical and logistics companies a platform with the tools and products from the US International Development Finance Corp. (DFC) and US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) for the expansion of anti-COVID vaccine development, manufacturing and distribution.

According to a statement released by the Embassy, the forum was also attended by officials of the Philippines’ Board of Investments, Department of Health, Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Food and Drug Administration and private sector participants including IG Biotech, Lloyd Laboratories, Unilab, Roche Philippines, Sydenham Laboratories, New Marketlink Pharmaceutical Corp., Royal Cargo, Philippine pharmaceutical industry association and cold chain and logistics firms.

As COVID-19 vaccine doses remain in limited supply amid the ongoing global pandemic, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez told CNN Philippines talks between Manila and Washington are ongoing to help distribute and manufacture vaccines.

Romualdez said the two countries are in the “early stages” of negotiation for a co-manufacturing agreement with some Western vaccine brands.

“As far back as October last year, I have already been encouraging Moderna specifically. We’ve been talking since July of last year to look at the Philippines as a place where they could at least start the distribution point, then after that to start developing vaccines here,” Romualdez said.

“The other manufacturer we were also trying to get to work in the Philippines is Novovax. We were trying to put them together with (United Laboratories, Inc.) and also to be able to manufacture the vaccines,” he added.

Romualdez also noted that the Philippines included vaccine development and manufacturing roadmap in the inaugural Virology Science and Technology Institute in New Clark City, Pampanga.

“This would be exciting for the country. Not only would it be good for health but also for our economy,” Romualdez said, noting the presence of logistics operator FedEx in the area will be a “good come-on for both the Philippines and the United States in terms of global distribution of vaccines and other supplies.”

DOST Undersec. Rowena Cristina Guevarasaid the DOST Pharma Center, in the medium term, hopes to bridge the gap between the academe and the industry for pharmaceutical development.

“We are also establishing the Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines through a law,” Guevara said.

In another report by The Philippine Star, DFC and USTDA are seeing opportunities for collaboration in the vaccine space on top of the US Agency for International Development’s $170-million funding to further support vaccine delivery through the COVAX Facility. 

DFC has recently launched the Global Health and Prosperity Initiative to prompt proposals from private sector firms in need of support for health-related investments.

“Through the initiative, our goal is to mobilize the private sector investment to support global health resilience worldwide. The agency is seeking to invest between $5 million and $500 million per eligible project through our agency’s full range of financial tools, and our goal in the next three years is to commit up to $2 billion across eligible projects,” DFC Managing Director for Health Initiatives Nafisa Jiwani said.

DFC Director for Indo-Pacific Erin Murphy expressed hope the beginning of the conversation would result in continued collaboration between the two countries to develop a resilient health care sector in the Philippines.

USTDA Indo-Pacific regional director said the Philippines has grown to be the most active portfolio in Southeast Asia while it supports companies create US jobs by exporting goods and services for development projects in emerging countries.

“We have so much demand that we are really working closely with the Philippine government currently to set up an office at the US embassy in Manila, hopefully by the end of this year,” Fike said.


A recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey revealed that six in 10 or 63 percent of adult Filipinos prefer COVID-19 vaccines from the US, followed by China at 19 percent, Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom at 13 percent and Canada and Russia at 12 percent. 

SWS also noted that preference for US-made vaccines rises with education. In the country US vaccines are most preferred in all areas or 66 percent in the Visayas, 65 percent in Balance Luzon, 63 percent in Metro Manila and 54 percent in Mindanao.