P10 M reward for vaccine discovery exposes government’s shortsightedness

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in an online press conference on Tuesday, April 21, said that President Duterte is offering a P10 million reward to Filipinos who can discover a vaccine against Coronavirus disease (Covid 19). This is in addition to the substantial grant that will be given to the University of the Philippines (UP) for the development of the vaccine.

While at the onset it looks appealing, the announcement clearly shows the government’s shortsightedness and lack of a concrete plan on how to address the disease. In the first place, we have a Department of Science and Technology that could have been tapped, along with the UP and the private sector, for the development of the vaccine. Instead of offering the money as a reward, why not use it as a capital for the development of the vaccine? That is more pro-active than just waiting for somebody to come to the fore and offering the result.

Malacañang’s offer reminded me of the story of one law professor. While walking in a mall, the law professor was greeted by a couple who introduced themselves as one of the students of the professor. The parents proudly announced that they are fattening a cow in preparation for the graduation of their son. The professor politely responded, “That is very generous of you. But I suggest you sell the cow and buy law books for your son so that he will be able to graduate”.

Malacañang is acting like the parents. While very proud to announce the P10 million reward, it fails to consider that the reward can already be used to support the development of the vaccine. Besides, if the government will invest the money for the development, the more that it can regulate the vaccine’s pricing. Won’t that be better return on investment than just dangling the amount?

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