COVID-19 inoculation mandatory but soldiers can choose brand – AFP spox

Robie de Guzman   •   February 25, 2021   •   630

MANILA, Philippines – The vaccination of military personnel against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will be mandatory although the soldiers can choose which brand to receive, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Thursday.

In a virtual press briefing, AFP Spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said all soldiers will be obliged to get inoculated as ordered by AFP chief of staff Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana.

The directive came even as the military has yet to ascertain where its vaccine supply will be coming from, or if they are among those who will receive the first 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by the Chinese government.

“Ang Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas po is not like any ordinary organizations. Tayo po ay nasa service-orientated organization. Tayo po ang inaasahan sa napakaraming mabibigat na tungkulin kagaya nga po ng pagharap sa pandemya as early as 2020. Kaya sinabi natin na hindi opsyon ang pag-ayaw. Subalit kinikilala natin yung kanilang kagustuhan ng brand na gusto nila” he said.

Military personnel who will be choosing other brands of the vaccine will need to pay for their own jabs, Arevalo said.

Those who refuse to get vaccinated will face sanctions under military rules, he added.

“We are an organization under military regulations. So, ang pagtupad sa mga regulasyon o sa mga tinatadhana ng existing legal orders buhat sa ating mga superiors just like this one from the AFP Chief of Staff, no less, will be dealt with disciplinary actions kung hindi nila susundin,” he said.

“But we are confident na hindi na tayo darating sa punto na iyon,” he added.

The AFP said all its employees and troops assigned in the medical and healthcare units will be the first to get inoculated against COVID-19.

The donated Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines from China are expected to arrive in the country this weekend. RRD (with details from Correspondent Joan Nano)

US, PH military forces conclude 36th Balikatan Exercise

Robie de Guzman   •   April 23, 2021

 MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine military and the United States Armed Forces have concluded the 36th Balikatan Exercise on Friday with a ceremony held at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) general headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

“The successful conduct of this year’s Balikatan Exercise 36-2021 has definitely brought us a step closer towards our goal of capacitating our forces, and as such, will consequently contribute to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific Region,” said AFP Chief of Staff General Cirilito Sobejana.

The AFP said soldiers participating in the joint exercise were able to achieve the activity’s objectives in strengthening both militaries’ capability and experience.

“Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, both Filipino and American forces were able to achieve the objectives of this year’s Balikatan Exercise – to train together on defense and security efforts, leveraging on the capability, experience, and strength of both militaries’ longstanding friendship,” said Major General Edgard Arevalo, Commander of the AFP Education Training and Doctrine Command and this year’s Exercise Director.

Due to the global health crisis, the AFP said the magnitude of Balikatan 2021 was scaled down both in numbers of events and participants. Approximately 225 U.S. military personnel and 415 AFP personnel participated.

Major Balikatan 2021 events were held in Colonel Ernesto Ravina Airbase in Tarlac, where combined Air Force and Special Operations forces conducted close air support training, increasing interoperability across the joint forces.

AFP Northern Luzon Command Battle Staff and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command representatives conducted a bilateral staff exercise in Clark, Pampanga, while Philippine and U.S. Special Operations forces conducted a Bilateral Staff Academic Seminar in Taguig City.

Academic discussions and subject matter expert exchanges were held virtually to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The Philippine Air Force and U.S. Pacific Air Forces conducted a virtual Global Health Engagement and other virtual training on various air operations and capabilities.

The Exercise also included Humanitarian and Civic Assistance activities, which began on March 26, prior to the opening of the exercises. Philippine and U.S. service members completed the construction of two classrooms and a daycare center in Plaridel, a classroom in Atimonan, and a health clinic in Mauban, all of Quezon Province.

The AFP assured that health and safety protocols were strictly followed during the conduct of the exercise.

“The 36th Balikatan Exercise brought together AFP and U.S. Armed Forces amidst the challenge of a never-before-experienced health emergency. Our participants greatly benefitted from trainings, exchange of knowledge, and cooperative activities aimed at better enhancing our capabilities,” Arevalo said.

“Balikatan showcases the strength and resolve of the Philippine-U.S. alliance. These exercises demonstrate and improve our ability to jointly respond to crises. But training is never over. We will continue to advance our military-to-military partnership in pursuit of our shared commitment to mutual defense in a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Law, who was also present during the closing ceremony.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, on the other hand, recognized the continuous commitment to the longstanding alliance of the Philippines and the U.S. government.

“Allow me to convey my gratitude to the U.S. Government, represented here by Mr. John Law, for its unwavering support to this annual exercise. I am likewise grateful for your constant and continued assurance of the ironclad commitment to our Mutual Defense Treaty,” he said.

Balikatan, which means “shoulder-to-shoulder” in Filipino, embodies the alliance and friendship between the Philippines and the United States.

The exercise officially opened on April 12 and was conducted in Northern and Southern Luzon for two weeks.

DOH’s Duque gets vaccinated vs COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III received his first dose of a vaccine against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Friday.

Duque was inoculated around 10 a.m. with CoronaVac dose made by Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech. Health Undersecretary Geraldo Bayugo administered the vaccine.

Duque, 64, is a senior citizen that belongs to A2 category of the government’s COVID-19 priority list.

“As I receive my dose of the COVID-19 vaccine today, I invite everyone to do the same, and choose to be protected,” Duque was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the DOH.

“Let us all take part in protecting public health, and let us be in unison in spreading one message: that vaccines are safe, and vaccines are effective,” he added.

Duque also stressed that the government is doing everything it can to secure sufficient vaccine supply to cover 70 million Filipinos.

The DOH chief’s vaccination follows the recommendation of the Food and Drug Administration to use CoronaVac on senior citizens amid a shortage of AstraZeneca vaccine supply, which is used to inoculate the elderly.

 

PH receives 500K more Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines

Robie de Guzman   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Thursday received another shipment of COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech.

Around 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines purchased by the government arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at past 5 p.m. It arrived via a Philippines Airlines flight.

The shipment brings the COVID-19 shots so far delivered to the country to more than 3,525,600, comprised of CoronaVac and AstraZeneca.

This is part of the commitment of Sinovac Biotech to deliver 1.5 million vaccine doses this month. The other 500,000 doses were shipped last April 11.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. earlier said that about 100,000 of these vaccines will be deployed to Metro Manila and its administration will be completed within the week.

Galvez also said that another 500,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines will be delivered on April 29.

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