Duterte asks Xi to allow PH first dibs on China’s COVID-19 vaccine

Published July 27, 2020, 8:52 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

President Duterte revealed that he recently asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow the Philippines to be one of the first countries to get their hands on a vaccine against COVID-19.

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte made the statement as he delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

In his speech, the President acknowledged that every country, including the Philippines, is living in troubled times because of the pandemic.

“Our dream of prosperity for our country was suddenly snuffed by a pandemic virulent virus. No nation was spared. Neither rich nor poor were exempt from the onslaught of this deadly disease,” he said.

However, President Duterte assured Filipinos that they do not have to wait much longer for a vaccine as it will be coming soon even though it would be difficult to access.

“But let us not despair. The vaccine is around the corner. Sooner and not later, the virus that gobbled up thousands of lives will itself be laid to rest,” he said.

“How to get it (vaccine) from the producers or other governments is really something which we have to deal with it because everyone… It’s a global need and everyone will go for it,” he added.

According to President Duterte, he already asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow the Philippines to have first dibs on their vaccine.

“About four days ago I made a plea to President Xi Jinping that if they have the vaccine, can they allow us to be one of the first, or if needed, if we have to buy it, that we will be granted credit so that we can normalize as fast as possible,” he said.

President Xi had assured President Duterte that the Philippines will be among the first countries to get a vaccine against COVID-19, once it is developed. The China National Pharmaceutical Group (SinoPharm) said last week that a vaccine could be ready by the end of 2020.

Last week, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said it does not matter how much will these vaccines cost or who makes them because Duterte’s friends-to-all-enemies-to-none foreign policy will help the Philippines secure vaccines.

“Tayo po ay may independent foreign policy at dahil po diyan, dahil kaibigan tayo ng lahat–ng China, ng Russia, ng America, ng Europa—na kung sino man ang maka-develop ng vaccine ay tayo po ay tinuturing na kaibigan nila. (We have an independent foreign policy where we are friends with everyone–China, Russia, America, Europe—so whoever develops a vaccine, we’re friends with them),” he said.

President Duterte has said that he was willing to sell all government assets to buy vaccines for COVID-19. However, Roque said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III is against this.

Countries like China, the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom have all reported positive developments in their quest for a COVID-19 vaccine.

On Friday, the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases allowed the Philippines to join the Gavi COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility, a mechanism designed to guarantee rapid, fair, and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.

Gavi has announced that 75 countries have submitted expressions of interest to protect their populations and those of other nations through joining the COVAX Facility.

The 75 countries, which would finance the vaccines from their own public finance budgets, partner with up to 90 lower-income countries that could be supported through voluntary donations to Gavi’s COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

Among the group are representatives from every continent and more than half of the world’s G20 economies.

COVAX aims to deliver two billion doses of safe, effective vaccines that have passed regulatory approval and/or World Health Organization (WHO) pre-qualification by the end of 2021.

In a statement, Gavi said that the vaccines will be delivered equally to all participating countries, proportional to their populations, initially prioritizing healthcare workers then expanding to cover 20 percent of the population of participating countries.