South Korea’s COVID-19 assistance to the Philippines reaches $105.3 million

The government of South Korea has provided the Philippines about $105.3 million worth of assistance from last year up to March to help the country in its coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response.

(Clockwise from top left) The Korea-made Walk-Through COVID-19 Testing Booth provided by the Korean government; support to the Korea-Philippines Friendship Hospital in Cavite; the Ma-Igting sewing center in Bulacan supported by KOICA and Camp Asia NGO that has recruited people to produce face masks and PPEs; and the face mask donation by South Korea. (Korean Embassy / MANILA BULLETIN)

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country last year, South Korea responded by giving monetary assistance and in-kind donations.

“Korea-Philippines relations have grown over the past 72 years not just in terms of trading volume or tourist visits but also always caring foremost and at every step about the well-being of the people. ‘Bayanihan’ is at the heart of Korea’s assistance for the Philippines’ COVID-19 response,” Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Kim Inchul told Manila Bulletin.

He added, “People-centeredness is what drives Korea’s development cooperation in the Philippines. We want to be dearer in the hearts of the people of the Philippines. Every effort the Korean government makes in partnership with the Philippine government is for the people of this beautiful country.”

The relations between the two countries started on March 3, 1949 when the Philippines recognized South Korea after the latter was inaugurated as the Republic of Korea on Aug. 15, 1948. In 2019, the Philippines and South Korea celebrated the 70th anniversary of their bilateral relations.

According to the Korean Embassy in the Philippines, through the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF), South Korea provided the Philippines with a loan of $100 million in budgetary assistance to support the strengthening of national policies and institutions, help procure medical supplies and equipments related to COVID-19, and boost the capacity of local municipalities and cities in responding to the pandemic.

This is under the Export-Import Bank of Korea-EDCF Program Loan for COVID-19 Emergency Response Program.

In April 2020, South Korea gave COVID-19 testing kits for 35,000 tests to the country worth $500,000.

Before this, it helped the country when Taal volcano erupted in January last year. Korea also provided humanitarian assistance when the Philippines was hit by super typhoon “Rolly” (international name: “Goni”) last year. The donations totaled $400,000 and were coursed through the Philippine Red Cross.

South Korea also donated more than 670,000 face masks in 2020 consisting of 50,000 pieces for use of Korean War veterans and their families under the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK) in May; 600,000 face masks worth $500,000 in July; and 20,000 face masks and hand sanitizers in November.

The Korean Embassy in collaboration with Korean company T&B Co. donated 1,000 face shields.

Through the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), which is in-charge of Korea’s Official Development Assistance (ODA), South Korea donated $1 million last year by way of seven walk-through COVID-19 testing booths, capacity building for the Korea-Philippines Friendship Hospital (General Emilio Aguinaldo Memorial Hospital) in Cavite, donation of 200 tons of rice and emergency relief kits such as food packs, hygiene kits and masks.

KOICA made an additional assistance worth $300,000 for the Philippines through personal protective equipment (PPE) and emergency medicine for the General Emilio Aguinaldo Memorial Hospital, medical and hygiene supplies to Mindanao, Davao, Quezon, Pateros, Cavite and Leyte through the KOICA Alumni Association (PHILKOFA), PPEs and emergency coordination with the Department of Health regarding nutrition and immunization supply in partnership with UNICEF and food packs, hygiene kits and masks in partnership with local and Korean non-government organizations.

Under the Korea-ASEAN Cooperation Fund, South Korea has allotted $500,000 worth of diagnostic kits, PCR/DNA (Polymerase chain reaction/deoxyribonucleic acid) extraction equipment and PPE to the Philippines. The procurement of the donations is underway.

The Korean government through KOICA made additional donations last year of 1,950 metric tons of rice by way of the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR) for communities affected by COVID-19 and natural disasters.

An additional assistance of $2.5 million will be provided by South Korea to the Philippines this year.

As the second ODA fund source country for the Philippines, Korea’s direct donation through KOICA amounts annually to about $30 million in areas that directly affect people’s everyday life while Korea’s financing assistance for the Philippines’ major infrastructure improvement endeavors amounts to about $600 million (ongoing projects).

The Korean government, through KOICA, is supporting the Philippines’ recovery and resilience from COVID-19 through various mid-to-long term development projects in many areas such as building resilience of the vulnerable communities in urban and rural areas, and strengthening the health system.

“Korea is proud to be part of the global solidarity and cooperation to help provide fair access to vaccines for the people of the Philippines. Korea will continue to take part in the international community’s joint efforts to fight COVID19 together so that no one is left behind in the process of overcoming the pandemic,” said Ambassador Kim.

In addition, the Korean government has pledged to contribute $10 million to the COVAX AMC (COVID19 Vaccines Advance Market Commitment), taking part in the international community’s solidarity in facilitating the equitable distribution of safe and effective vaccines to 92 low and middle-income countries including the Philippines.

SK Bioscience, a Korean vaccine company, plays an important role in producing the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccines that are distributed through the COVAX Facility.

A version of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, produced by AstraZeneca-SK Bioscience (AZ-SKBio), has been given the World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Use Listing (EUL) and is available for global rollout through the COVAX Facility.

Last March 4, a total of 487,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were delivered to the Philippines through the COVAX facility. This first batch of AstraZeneca vaccines was produced by SK Bioscience in Korea.