Philippines: Duterte Sets Daily Target of 1M Vaccine Shots

Basilio Sepe and Luis Liwanag
Philippines: Duterte Sets Daily Target of 1M Vaccine Shots Philippine police officers check motorists at a COVID-19 checkpoint in Marikina City, Metro Manila, Aug. 6, 2021.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

The Philippines aims to double the number of people receiving vaccinations – to 1 million a day – President Rodrigo Duterte said as he pressed local officials to speed up inoculation efforts against COVID-19 and threatened to punish those who lagged behind.

A total of about 109 million vaccine doses have arrived in the Philippines, but there appear to be bottlenecks in deliveries of the shots nationwide, he said.

“I have reiterated my instructions to all agencies to make sure that our local government units will receive their daily jab (targets) so that our country can reach the target of 1 million jabs or more,” Duterte said, according to transcripts of a pre-recorded cabinet meeting that were released Wednesday.

The government has given 60.4 million shots of COVID-19 vaccine to Filipinos, according to the National COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard. It noted that 27.75 million have been fully vaccinated and 32.65 million have received their first dose.

As of October, the president said, the government had exceeded its target of administering 55 million shots “primarily because the supply came in droves.”

“We also thank the generous vaccine donations of many countries particularly the U.S., China, Japan, South Korea, Germany, among others,” he said, adding that 2.7 million doses of the Sputnik vaccine from Russia arrived this week. “I thank Russia, particularly President Vladimir Putin, for ensuring we receive these doses in a timely manner.”

Still, there are “fault lines in the overall picture of our vaccination program,” Duterte said, adding he was not pleased by the pace in which vaccines were being given.

The interior department has been ordered “to impose the necessary sanctions against LGUs [local government units] and local chief executives who are not performing nor using the doses given to them in a most expeditious manner,” Duterte said without elaborating on the potential sanctions.

The president also called on the armed forces and police to assist in delivering vaccines to far-flung areas.

Previous threats

This was not the first time Duterte used threats and intimidation to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, he warned that those who refused to be vaccinated would be detained forcibly in their homes.

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, human rights groups alleged that overzealous security forces had overstepped rules when imposing quarantines.

A former soldier who was described as mentally ill was gunned down in April 2020 after disobeying police at a quarantine checkpoint in Manila.

Before the shooting, Duterte drew criticism after he ordered police to open fire on civilians who insisted on crossing the checkpoint. That order came after several people were jailed after protesting against the quarantine.

This year, a man died in April after being forced by police to do hundreds of squats for violating a curfew in Cavite, a suburban province south of Manila.

The Philippines is among Southeast Asian countries hardest hit by the coronavirus. The health department reported 1,591 new infections in the previous 24 hours and 186 deaths, bringing the totals to nearly 2.8 million and 43,586 since the pandemic began.

Despite those numbers, daily cases in the Philippines have dropped lately, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

“The whole country is currently classified as low risk because the two-week national growth rate has been going down,” he said during the cabinet meeting.

The World Health Organization ranks the Philippines in 40th place globally in terms of active cases and fourth among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to Duque.

It is imperative that access to vaccines be increased now that the economy is beginning to recover, he said. The government announced that nightly curfews would be lifted by Thursday in an effort to aid the recovery.

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