MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte said Sunday that he intends to visit Chinese President Xi Jinping by the end of the year to thank him for the donated doses of Sinovac, the first COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in the country.
The president led administration officials in welcoming the 600,000 doses of Sinovac at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, a further showing the two countries’ close ties in his years in office.
Going off-script at the end of his speech, Duterte said Beijing’s donation to Manila since China delivered the jabs by military plabe instead of having the Philippines pick it up there.
“I’d like to just say that towards maybe the end of the year, when everything has settled down, I intend to make a short visit to China,” Duterte said, “to just shake hands with President Xi Jinping and personally thank him for his donation.”
The Philippines has accepted help from China over the course of the pandemic that originated in Wuhan City in Hubei province.
This included Beijing sending a team of medical experts to Manila to assist in virus-related efforts, as well as donations of personal protective equipment and testing kits that were scarce in the country during the early stages of the health crisis.
Still in his speech, Dutere reiterated his call for the international community to make the COVID-19 vaccines a “global public good” that are accessible to all regardless of social status.
“Comprehensive global recovery hinges on the equal and easy access by everyone to life-saving vaccines,” he said. “Countries must therefore continue working together and do everything humanly possible to ensure a good outcome of every person.”
The president also sought to allay safety concerns shared even by medical groups on Sinovac, saying that the Emergency Use Approval for it was “backed by science and deliberated by our Filipino experts.”
Apart from the donated 600,000 doses, the administration is looking to purchase 25 million doses more of Sinovac in its bid to vaccinate millions this year that had already faced weeks of delay.
By Monday, March 1, some 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca would also arrive in the country under the COVAX facility, a global initiative for equitable access to the jabs.
But so far, there is no announcement of a welcoming ceremony for the British-Swedish drugmaker’s vaccines, which the country will receive almost free, with only having to shoulder 5% of the payment.