The Bureau of Customs (BOC) revealed Tuesday that the imported COVID-19 vaccines given to the Presidential Security Group (PSG) did not have any formal communication to their agency. It added those involved could be facing civil and administrative cases if the vaccines were proved to be smuggled.
BOC assistant commissioner and spokesperson Philip Vincent Maronilla said all COVID-19 vaccines entering the country should secure required permits from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA). FDA confirmed it had not approved the use of any vaccine against COVID-19 in the Philippines.
“‘Pag ganyan pong mga klaseng produkto, kailangan po namin ng license to operate coming from the FDA or any provisional authority coming from the FDA,” he said in an interview on GMA Super Radyo DZBB.
“‘Yun po ‘yung amin ngayong tinitignan sa aming mga records pero so far as vaccines being brought in for, again, the use of general public, wala pong na-communicate sa amin at wala pong na-indicate sa amin na instructions na ganon,” added Maronilla.
The FDA launched a probe into the matter and insisted that there is still no vaccine approved for use or distribution in the country.
Vaccines given to PSG had no papers – BOC
“Kung mapapatunayan po na ito ay pinasok ng walang pahintulot ng pamahalaan at clearly smuggled, maari po silang kasuhan ng violation ng ating Customs Modernization Act or smuggling,” Maronilla said.
“May mga certain special laws din po about bringing in illicit medicines na maaring ikaso sa kanila both civilly and criminally, at ‘yung may mga lapses na mga opisyal natin, maaring i-hold administratively liable,” he added.
However, Maronilla noted that there may be situations that the importation of COVID-19 vaccines could be justified. This is if there was provisional authority for the vaccine to enter the Philippines for trials.
“Sabi nga ni USec. Eric Domingo, wala silang inapprove of any kind. If that is a complete statement that they did not approve of any kind of importation of vaccine, then wala po dapat nakapasok,” he explained.
“But if ang statement ni USec. Domingo is that wala silang in-approve for the general use of the general public, iba po ‘yung provisional use doon sa general use and that’s something that we will have to clarify,” added Maronilla.