Russian envoy assures supply of Sputnik vaccines for PH

Published January 25, 2021, 6:29 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

Russian Ambassador Marat Pavlov has assured Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that Moscow is ready to deliver Sputnik V, their brand of  COVID-9 vaccine, to the Philippines as a proof of warming ties between the two countries.

Russian Federation Ambassador Marat Pavlov (photo from PCOO)

In a statement Monday, Lorenzana said Pavlov made the commitment during the latter’s courtesy call at the Department of National Defense (DND) Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City two weeks ago.

“During his visit to the DND, Ambassador of Russia to the Philippines Marat I. Pavlov expressed readiness to supply Sputnik vaccine to the Philippines as a form of gratitude to the defense department for its assistance on the repatriation of Russian nationals who were stranded in various islands of the country during the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine last year,” Lorenzana said.

The details of the vaccine supply were not revealed although Lorenzana said he welcomed Pavlov’s offer and thanked him for the initiative to help the government’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Sputnik V is developed by Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. It is one of the seven vaccines being evaluated by the country’s Food and Drug Administration for public use.

Pavlov’s visit was one of the four engagements made by Lorenzana in the past two weeks to bolster the country’s defense and military cooperation with other allies.

Lorenzana added that the Russian Navy intends to pay a port visit to the Philippine Navy as part of the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between Moscow and Manila.

Aside from Pavlov, Lorenzana also received Japanese Ambassador Koshikawa Kazuhiko and Canadian Ambassador Peter MacArthur, who both rendered their introductory calls at the DND Headquarters last January 13 to 14. He also talked to Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto via a phone call.

Lorenzana said he renewed his commitment to improve ties with the four countries after his meetings with the envoys and his Indonesian counterpart.

Japan envoy’s visit

During the visit of Kazuhiko, which coincided with the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the Philippines and Japan’s bilateral relations, Lorenzana said he lauded the two countries already robust defense relations.

The defense chief thanked Koshikawa for the recent contract signing of the Philippine Air Force’s acquisition project involving air defense surveillance radars. The P5.5-billion air surveillance radar system is set to boost the PAF’s defense capabilities when it acquires four long-range air surveillance radars.

The acquisition project marked the first defense equipment and technology cooperation between the two countries, and the first time that Japan exported to the Philippines a Japanese-made defense equipment under its restructured government policy which permitted its sale.

For his part, Koshikawa noted how Japan has adopted several policy changes to promote mutual trust and confidence with the Philippines as its strategic partner. 

The envoy also took note of Japan’s contribution to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization program through its donation of TC-90 aircraft to the Philippine Navy and UH-1H Huey chopper spare parts to the Philippine Air Force.

Canadian envoy’s visit

Meanwhile, Canadian Ambassador MacArthur said that Canada enjoys its strong relationship with the Philippines as he expressed hope of increasing their country’s military engagements with ASEAN countries. 

Lorenzana conveyed his appreciation to MacArthur for Canada’s donation of medical equipment and supplies worth P4 million for the country’s COVID-19 response.

Indonesian defense chief’s visit

Lastly, Lorenzana discussed with Subianto various cooperations to defeat terrorism, kidnap-for-ransom activities, and other security challenges along the Philippine and Indonesian borders.

Lorenzana also conveyed condolences over the death of La Baa, one of the five Indonesian fishermen who were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in 2020. Baa died in an armed encounter between the military and ASG to save the kidnap victims in Patikul, Sulu on September 20, 2020.

Lorenzana added that Subianto requested him to share with Indonesian military commanders the country’s experiences and strategies during the Marawi siege in 2017.