PH accepts vaccines from China but won’t give up position on West PH Sea – Ambassador Sta. Romana

Published March 27, 2021, 4:47 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The delivery of coronavirus vaccines from China to the Philippines is not at all connected with the sovereign issues related to the West Philippine Sea dispute, according to a Filipino diplomat.

(Photo from Xinhua)

Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana explained that the country could accept donations or buy vaccines from China but this does not mean Manila would surrender its position on the West Philippine Sea.

Sta. Romana cited the “dual track” of the country’s policy towards China where vaccine cooperation was one thing while West Philippine Sea issue was another matter.

China recently donated 1 million doses of Sinovac vaccines to the Philippines that allowed Manila to start its immunization drive. An additional 1 million Chinese developed-vaccines, procured by the Philippine government this time, are expected to arrive on Monday, March 29.

“Gusto ko nga sabihin dito na sa Lunes darating iyong first procurement – hindi na donation – procurement by the government from Sinovac, 1 million doses of vaccine. So iyan, walang issue diyan; hindi iyan kakabit sa sovereignty issue (I just want to say the one million doses of vaccine, the first procurement by the government from Sinovac, not donation, will arrive this Monday. There’s no issue there. That’s not connected with sovereignty issue),” Sta. Romana said over government television.

“Look at it as two separate tracks that we proceed on, hindi one track, otherwise, magiging one-track mind ang pag-iisip mo. At iisipin mo, dahil kumukuha ka ng bakuna, nagkakaroon kayo ng kooperasyon sa bakuna na ibibigay naman ang sovereignty — no (it is not one track otherwise you’ll have a one-track mind. If you think just because you’re getting vaccines, you have vaccine cooperation and you will give up sovereignty — no),” he said.

Sta. Roma said this was precisely the distinguishing mark of the country’s two-track policy towards China “where we cooperate where we can, but we stand our ground where we should and that’s what we are doing now.”

Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier said China might be trying to “soften the blow” of its incursion into local waters by donating vaccines to the country.

The former magistrate made the comment after authorities spotted over 200 Chinese vessels moored in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef, located within the West Philippine Sea. Manila has filed a diplomatic protest over the ships’ presence in local waters but Beijing claimed these were merely fishing vessels taking refuge due to rough sea condition.

The Filipino ambassador however disagreed with Carpio’s observation linking the vaccines with the West Philippine Sea issue. He noted that the Philippines would stand its ground on West Philippine Sea regardless of the vaccine cooperation with China.

“Kung ang plano ng China ay palambutin tayo, pinapakita nga natin ngayon na walang koneksiyon iyan (If China planned on appeasing us, we are showing now that there is no connection),” he said.

“This is the other track on issues on issues where we have differences or disputes on issue of sovereignty and sovereign rights, we stand our ground and we protest when we need to,” he added.