By Martin Sadongdong
The United States expressed willingness to share to the Philippines a vaccine on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that it is developing once it is finished and available for distribution.
This was the assurance made by US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in a conference call with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last Friday, Independence Day (June 12).
“Secretary Esper mentioned that developments on vaccines and therapeutics in the US are making very good progress, and expressed their willingness to share them with US allies and partners once available,” said Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Arsenio Andolong in a statement on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Lorenzana took the opportunity to share the Philippines’ response to COVID-19 pandemic as he thanked the US government for its medical assistance and donations.
The conference call between the top defense officials was bared after Malacanang announced that President Duterte had a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the eve of Independence Day.
According to Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, Xi told Duterte that the Philippines will get a “priority” access to a vaccine that it is also developing to combat COVID-19, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province.
Aside from COVID-19 response, Esper and Lorenzana also talked about the decision of Duterte to suspend the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
It was Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. who made the announcement on June 3, citing the need for a stronger collaboration among partner-countries to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increased tension in the South China Sea.
Further, Esper and Lorenzana discussed about the security situation in the South China Sea which, in the past weeks, has been a witness to a seemingly flex of military might between US and China what with the deployment of their respective warships in the disputed waters.
The discussion between the US and Philippines Defense chiefs also covered counter-terrorism and logistics cooperation, and the capability upgrades of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“Both sides committed to sustain dialogues amidst the pandemic and strengthen the cooperation between the two defense establishments,” Andolong said.