Once upon a time: PH donated vaccines to China in 1939

Published March 11, 2021, 6:59 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

The Philippine government has nothing but praises for China after receiving 600,000 doses of Sinovac coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines in February which kicked-off the country’s mass inoculation campaign.

former Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio “Toting” Bunye

Unknown to many, the Philippines also “donated vaccines to China” decades ago according to former Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio “Toting” Bunye.

Bunye shared this information in a Facebook post on Thursday, March 11.

“I recently came across this captioned photograph circa 1939 (preserved by UP Prof Gerald Lico) which showed that the Philippines, through the Philippine Red Cross, once donated vaccines to China,” Bunye said in his post.

The “unnamed” vaccines, Bunye added, were “produced in the Serum and Vaccine Laboratory (SVL) in Alabang, which was then operated by University of the Philippines Institute of Hygiene.”

Bunye explained that the “vaccines were turned over by Charles H. Forster, manager of the Philippine Red Cross, and Dr. Felixberto N. Fuentes, head of SVL, to Dr. C. Kuangson Young, Chinese Consul General.”

He also noted that the “Alabang Serum and Vaccine Laborator[y] had the capability of producing anti-smallpox, BCG, anti-diphteria [sic], and anti- rabies vaccines.”

During post-war years, Bunye noted that the SVL also “started producing anti-venom vaccines, sourced from its nearby serpentarium which housed deadly Philippine cobras.”

He added that the former SVL site has been re-purposed and currently forms part of the Festival Mall in Filinvest Corporate City.

Bunye served as Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He is a former member of the Monetary Board at Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and also a former Mayor at City Government of Muntinlupa.

Currently, he is an Independent Director at Bank of the Philippine Islands.