China’s Xi promises ‘not to forget PH’ in its global vaccine rollout — Duterte

Published January 19, 2021, 9:25 AM

by Genalyn Kabiling

Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised not to forget the Philippines in terms of extending the supply of coronavirus vaccines, President Duterte bared on Monday amid the controversy over the government’s purchase of doses developed by Sinovac.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on January 18, 2021.

In a televised address, the President admitted that he asked for assistance from the Chinese leader about the country’s vaccine supply early on and got an assurance of support. He cited that China has already promised to give 500,000 free vaccines to the Philippines when he recently met with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi.

“I was assured as early as pag-umpisa nito, by President Xi Jinping, na hindi kita kakalimutan. I will not forget your country. So, hindi kita kakalimutan. Sabi niya, “Do not worry’ (I was assured early on by President Xi when he said’ I will not forget your country. He said, ‘Do not worry’),” Duterte said.

“Nandito kahapon si Ambasador ng China, sinabi sa akin, mayroong darating, huwag kayong mag-worry (The Ambasador of China was herę. He told me about the forthcoming supply and for me not to worry),” he said.

Duterte said there were so far no reported deaths in the use of the vaccines developed by Sinovac in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Brazil.

On questions about his supposed preference for Sinovac, Duterte explained that he contacted Xi about the government’s concerns on vaccine supply even before the controversy began. “Sabi ko, wala kaming resources (I told him we have no resources). We do not know how to make it. Please do not forget the Philippines,” he said.

Duterte said Xi told him that China is obligated to vaccinate its billions of citizens first. He observed that the vaccine supply might not even be sufficient to cover other provinces under the control of China.

The government recently secured 25 million doses of vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech with the first 50,000 doses expected to arrive next month. The rest of the vaccine supply will be delivered from March until December.

Some lawmakers have questioned the government’s alleged preference for the Chinese-made vaccines despite their supposed high cost and low efficacy rate. The government, however, has defended the selection of the Sinovac vaccines, saying every dose cost around P650 and has shown efficacy in clinical trials abroad. The actual price of the vaccine could not be divulged yet due to a non-disclosure agreement in the preliminary deal sealed with the supplier.

The Palace had earlier said the use of the coronavirus vaccine will still be subject to the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It also committed to reveal the vaccine price once the contract of sale is sealed and its distribution is approved.