US shift in COVID-19 response, return to Paris Agreement under Biden could benefit PH — Analyst

Marje Pelayo   •   November 10, 2020   •   480

MANILA, Philippines — Some policies under the administration of US President-elect Joe Biden could benefit the Philippines, according to political analyst Tony La Viña.

Under Biden, the US government is expected to be more active and open to working with other nations in the search for a COVID-19 cure.

The Philippines may now consider the US as another potential source of Covid vaccine other than China and Russia.

“Kung si Trump ang nanalo, hindi niya ibabahagi ang vaccine nila sa atin. Ngayon kay Biden […] first day of office sabi niya, ‘We are going back to the World Health Organization to cooperate with other countries on the vaccine.'” La Viña noted.

As a country prone to natural disasters, the Philippines may also benefit from America’s return to the Paris Climate Change agreement.

On the other hand, La Viña said, one of the possible conflicts between the administrations of Biden and President Rodrigo Duterte is on the issue of human rights given the Democrats’ strong stand on the matter.

It can be recalled that the Duterte administration’s relationship with the administration of then President Barack Obama turned sour because of the latter’s criticisms on the former’s war on drugs.

Nevertheless, the overall US-Philippines relationship remains good despite conflicting stands.

Minsan ine-exaggerate natin ang presidential statements. But in reality even under Duterte, we have been able to collaborate and cooperate with the US very well,” La Viña said.

With regard to the territorial issues on the West Philippine Sea, the US has been vocal about its support for the Philippines, and Biden is expected to sit down with its allies in the region. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Over 193,000 doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Philippines

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech has been delivered in the Philippines.

The shipment arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 around 9 p.m. on Monday.

The initial batch of 193,050 doses of Pfizer vaccines was courtesy of the World Health Organization (WHO)-led COVAX Facility.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. earlier said the first shipment of Pfizer vaccines will serve as a logistical run to prepare for the arrival of additional Pfizer vaccine doses, which require storage temperature conditions of -70 degrees Celsius.

The Department of Health said this batch of Pfizer vaccines would be distributed to Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao, which have facilities capable of handling the product to avoid wastage.

These will be used on priority groups A1 (health workers), A2 (senior citizens), and A3 (persons with co-morbidities).

The government hopes to get 1.3 million more Pfizer vaccines through the COVAX facility this May.

Pfizer-BioNTech is the fourth brand of vaccine against coronavirus disease that the Philippines received since the government rolled out its immunization program on March 1. Vaccine supplies from Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Gamaleya Institute have been delivered in the past weeks.

Duterte: I asked Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping for help on COVID-19 vaccines but no talks on WPS

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday disclosed that he asked help from his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in obtaining COVID-19 vaccines but insisted that they did not discuss issues on the West Philippine Sea.

During his talk to the people on Monday night, Duterte recalled how he called Xi when the Philippines had yet to get any supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Let me just also say na itong history na… for public consumption na ito. Tumawag ako kay President Xi Jinping, sinabi ko kasi noong kasagsagan ng walang dumating talaga, walang makapkap si Secretary (Carlito) Galvez (Jr.), tumawag ako, sabi ko, ‘Mr. President (Xi), I would like to ask for your help until now Philippines is at a loss on how to get vaccines,’” he said.

“Sabi niya, ‘it’s okay we will help you.’ Ganoon lang. Hindi naman sinabi na kalimutan mo yung Scarborough Shoal, bigyan kita… Sinabi niya lang as simple as that,” he added.

The Philippines first received 600,000 doses of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines that were donated by the Chinese government on February 28. The national government used this supply to roll out its vaccination program on March 1.

In total, the Philippines has received 1 million donated Sinovac vaccine doses from China, including the 400,000 doses that were delivered in March.

Duterte stood by his earlier statement that the Philippines owes a debt of gratitude to China for all its help but emphasized that there would be no compromise on the West Philippine Sea issue.

“It’s never, never wrong to say that I owe you a debt of gratitude. Totoo eh, binigyan tayo, tinanggap natin, ginamit natin,” he said.

“But it does not mean na tanggapin ko ang bakuna tapos sabihin ko kalimutan ko na yung claim diyan sa West Philippine sea, okay na yun dahil sa bakuna… It was never like that, the world does not operate like that,” he added.

He said there would be no compromise on the issue and that China knows it.

“Maski bahain tayo dito ng vaccine, gagamitin ko pa rin pero sabihin ko ‘hindi ito kabayaran’. Iba ito. This is a Philippine national interest, this is not a health issue that nagpasalamat ako,” he said.

Why did Duterte tap out of challenge to debate with Carpio?

Robie de Guzman   •   May 10, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he is not afraid of facing retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio in a debate on issues surrounding the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte last week dared Carpio to square off on the loss of a Philippine territory during the Aquino administration, but later tapped out and instead delegated the task to his spokesperson, lawyer Harry Roque.

“What was in my mind when I challenged Carpio into a debate? Ang problema lang kasi dito nakalimutan ko na si Carpio hindi ang presidente – ako,” Duterte said in his weekly Talk to the People on Monday night.

Duterte said he had to back out of the challenge because anything he might say there could be construed as a “policy statement.”

“I might bind future actions of government pagdating dito sa West Philippine Sea,” he said.

“Pero dodoon ako sa kahon, it’s not because I am afraid of debates,” he added, saying that he had faced many debates with political rivals for the presidency in 2016.

“Hindi ako takot sa’yo, ang problema, hindi ko nga alam na hindi ka president,” he further said, addressing Carpio.

Duterte has blamed the previous administration over the loss of the Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea following a standoff in 2012.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier said that China “deceitfully breached” its agreement with the Philippines to withdraw the ships of both sides to end the standoff.

The Philippines then pursued an arbitral case against China in 2014. The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in 2016 in favor of the Philippines and nullified China’s vast claims in the South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte said he tried pursuing the arbitral ruling but nothing happened.

China has been ignoring the diplomatic protest that the Philippine government has repeatedly filed over the incursion of Chinese vessels in the contested waters.

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