Bacolod mayor stands pat on not paying pharma firm


By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – Mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez on Thursday stood firm on his decision not to pay drug maker AstraZeneca (AZ) the reported balance of P98 million for the COVID-19 vaccines “ordered” by the previous administration.

In a press conference at the Bacolod Government Center, Benitez confirmed that AstraZeneca already sent a copy of its tripartite contract with the city government and Department of Health (DOH) in an effort to collect the balance.

Benitez said he sent the contract to the DOH central office and he will leave it to the agency on how to settle the matter.

But definitely, he will not pay.

Earlier, AZ representatives met with Benitez who thought it was a courtesy call but was informed by the group that they would like to collect the P98 million for the COVID-19 vaccines.

The city government ordered around 650,000 doses of COVID vaccines from the British pharmaceutical firm in 2021, costing more than P150 million.

The city government already made a partial payment of P65 million for the more than 260,000 doses used in the vaccination program against COVID-19.

Benitez said he was also informed by the City Health Office that the 260,000 doses delivered by AstraZeneca have been fully utilized.

But AstraZeneca informed him that the city government still has 434,000 doses of the 650,000 vials which are in the Department of Health’s storage.

Benitez stressed that the city government has not received the 434,000 doses, adding that AstraZeneca told him that they delivered the doses, but the city government will not accept them because it has already exceeded its vaccination target.

Benitez told the AstraZeneca representatives then that “you have to excuse me, but I will try to the best of my ability not to pay you.”