China promises to donate 500,000 vaccine doses to PH

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PHOTO COURTESY: Department of Foreign Affairs

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 16) — China will donate half a million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines, its State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced in a bilateral meeting with his Filipino counterpart, Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin, Jr. on Saturday.

Wang informed Locsin of the Chinese government’s “intention” to donate the vaccines, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced in a statement after the closed-door meeting. No brand was mentioned.

The DFA added that the donation is "in keeping with" the earlier commitment made by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who said the Philippines will be prioritized once a vaccine developed by China becomes available.

In the opening remarks covered by the media, Wang stressed the need for the two countries to plan how they can work together throughout the year.

“[I]n our discussion today, we will also share with you my old friend, China’s stocks and announcements of China’s decision regarding vaccine cooperation,” Wang said in Mandarin, according to the transcript provided by the DFA.

China also reportedly pledged a million doses to Cambodia and 300,000 to Myanmar as part of Wang’s Southeast Asia tour.

Locsin, for his part, called the start of vaccinations as a “turning point” in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus, believed to have originated from Wuhan, China a year ago, has infected more than 93.9 million people worldwide.

The government is looking at procuring 25 million doses of Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine, eyeing a February rollout for the first 50,000 doses. Amid concerns on the efficacy and price of the vaccine, officials said the country can still opt out of the deal with Sinovac if it fails to secure regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

READ: COVID-19 vaccines: Where is PH in the procurement, clinical trials?

Meanwhile, the two foreign ministers on Saturday reiterated that their countries should continue to set aside differences to pursue areas of cooperation. President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to shelve the country’s arbitration win in its dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea, opting instead for friendlier relations with China.

The Asian giant insists on owning the global waterway, rejecting the arbitral ruling that recognizes Manila’s sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

“With our two nations’ abiding interest in regional stability and the security of our maritime commons, it behooves us to show our ability to rise to the challenge of managing differences peacefully and in accordance with law, while making headway towards trust-building and practical concrete mutually beneficial cooperation,” Locsin said in his speech.