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Philippines secures $900 mln in loans from World Bank, ADB for COVID-19 vaccines

MANILA, March 12 (Reuters) - The Philippines received on Friday a total of $900 million in loan commitments from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines and to help its pandemic-hit economy recover, the lenders said on Friday.

Despite recording one of the highest number of coronavirus cases in the region, the Philippines is playing catchup with some of its neighbours in vaccine procurement and was one of the last Southeast Asian nation to receive its first doses.

“Procuring and administering vaccines provides the country an added layer of defence against COVID-19 on top of public health measures,” Ndiamé Diop, World Bank country director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, said in a statement.

The World Bank extended $500 million financing for the purchase and distribution of vaccines and to strengthen the country’s health systems. In May, it extended a $500 million loan to provide relief to Filipinos who had lost jobs during lockdowns.

Separately, the ADB allotted $400 million for the Philippines, the first recipient of its vaccine access support programme.

The Philippines, which started its inoculation programme on March 1 with 600,000 Sinovac doses donated by China, is battling a renewed surge in COVID-19 cases.

The country, which aims to inoculate 70 million of its more than 108 million population, is in talks with vaccine manufacturers to buy 161 million doses. (Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Enrico Dela Cruz Editing by Ed Davikes)

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