Manila, Sep 15 (efe-epa).- The Philippine President said Monday he will prioritize COVID-19 vaccines developed by Russia or China, his geopolitical allies, instead of those made by western pharmaceutical companies which he accused of looking for profit amid the pandemic.
“If the vaccine of Russia and China are equally good and effective just as any other vaccine by any country, I will buy (them) first,” Rodrigo Duterte said in a televised Monday night speech, in which he offered his collaboration to Russian and Chinese companies that are developing a vaccine.
The president explained that he prefers to work with China or Russia because of their “generosity” towards the Philippines at the beginning of the pandemic, when uncertainty reigned.
“We were drifting, then this storm came. No other country helped us,” said Duterte, who has received donations of medicines, masks and protective equipment from both countries, but also from other nations as well as generous financial aid from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
The president criticized that many Western companies “want cash advance” to guarantee the supply of the vaccine, although none have yet been approved; whereas with China or Russia they don’t need to “beg or plead.”
“One thing wrong with Western countries, it’s all profit, profit, profit. There’s a pandemic, and you say, ‘We have something for sale. Or something to sell to you,” said Duterte, who took a more strong stance against the US and the European Union when these countries criticized human rights abuses in the war on drugs campaign launched by the president.
“There is nothing with finality and you want us to make a reservation by depositing money. You must be crazy. If (those) companies or their representatives are here and if I happened to have dinner outside and see you somewhere, I’ll kick your ass,” Duterte said, visibly angry.
The Philippines is in talks with Russia to start clinical trials of the Sputnik V vaccine in October; although it is also negotiating with China to acquire the vaccines from the Sinovac and Sinopharm companies.
The Russian candidate for the coronavirus vaccine has shown encouraging results in two small-scale trials, according to the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet. However, it has yet to undergo large-scale testing, in what would be phase 3 of the clinical trial to evaluate their safety and effectiveness.
Manila and Moscow are finalizing the procedures to start part of phase 3 in the Philippines in October, and even to mass-produce Sputnik V in the Asian country.
To reaffirm his confidence in the Russian vaccine, Duterte even pledged in August to be the first Filipino to publicly get the vaccine and thanked Putin for this “great contribution to humanity.”
The Philippines is the epicenter of COVID-19 in Southeast Asia with 265,888 cases, of which 58,754 are still active. It is also the second country in the region – after Indonesia – in the number of deaths – 4,630 in total – despite having one of the strictest quarantines in the world.
With almost 14 million population and more than half of the country’s COVID-19 cases, the capital Manila on Tuesday marked six months of lockdown, the longest in the world. EFE