Duterte: Call with Xi Jinping only on vaccine assistance, nothing on WPS

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 11) — President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday that he reached out to Chinese President Xi Jinping to ask for assistance in securing COVID-19 vaccines, noting that issues on the West Philippine Sea were not discussed.

In his Monday address, Duterte said he made the call to the Chinese leader at a time when the Philippines had not received any supply yet.

Tumawag ako kay President Xi Jinping… iyong kasagsagan na noong walang dumating talaga... Tumawag ako, sabi ko ‘Mr. President I would like to ask for your help. Until now the Philippines is really at a loss of how to get the vaccines’,” he said.

[Translation: I called President Xi Jin Ping during the time when we had not received any vaccine. I called and said 'Mr. President I would like to ask for your help. Until now the Philippine is really at a loss of how to get the vaccines’]

In response, Xi said “it’s okay we will help you,” according to Duterte.

He again mentioned that the Philippines owes China a debt of gratitude, especially when it comes to the supply of coronavirus shots, but this does not mean the issues in the disputed waters will be forgotten.

“It is never, never wrong to say I owe you a debt of gratitude. Totoo eh, binigyan tayo, tinanggap natin, ginamit natin, but it does not mean na tanggapin ko iyong bakuna tapos sabihin ko kalimutan ko na iyong claim diyan sa West Philippine Sea,” Duterte emphasized.

[Translation: It is true, we were given supplies, we accepted, we used it, but it does not mean that when we accepted the vaccines, I will just forget about the claims in the West Philippine Sea.]

Maski bahain tayo rito ng vaccine gagamitin ko pa rin pero sabihin ko hindi ito iyong kabayaran... This is Philippine national interest,” he added.

[Translation: Even if we get flooded by vaccines, I will still use it, but I will insist this is not payment...This is Philippine national interest.]

In his address late-April, Duterte said that the country owes China a huge debt, including the supply of COVID-19 vaccines. He also stressed that he cannot compromise on certain matters, specifically those related to sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.

To date, the country has received over 7 million doses of COVID-19 jabs donated and procured combined, bulk of which are from China.

The government targets to inoculate up to 70 million Filipino by the end of the year.