Duterte warns US: No vaccine, no VFA

President Rodrigo Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañan Palace on December 28, 2020. | King Rodriguez/Presidential photo

PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte has warned that he will terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) if the United States fails to provide the country with COVID-19 vaccines.

In a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on Saturday, December 26, the chief executive urged the country’s ally to deliver at least 20 million doses of the vaccine.

“‘Yung Visiting Forces Agreement matatapos na. Ngayon ‘pag hindi ako pumayag, aalis talaga sila. ‘Pag di sila naka-deliver maski minimum ng 20 million vaccines, better get out (The Visiting Forces Agreement will be ending. If I don’t extend it, they will really leave. If they cannot deliver even a minimum of 20 million vaccines, better get out),” he said.

“No vaccine, no stay here,” Duterte added.

Malacañang clarified the president’s remarks, however, saying that it was an exercise in the Philippines’ independent policy.

“Wala pong masama dyan, hindi po ‘yan blackmail. ‘Yan po ‘yung ibig sabihin ng independiyenteng panlabas na polisiya o independent foreign policy. Hindi po tayo sunud-sunuran. Hindi po tayo didiktahan ng kahit sino (There is nothing wrong with that, it’s not blackmailing. That’s what independent foreign policy means. We are not blind followers. We cannot be dictated by anyone),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

The Philippines on February 11, 2020 sent a notice to Washington that terminated the defense agreement.

In June, the abrogation of the VFA was suspended “in light of political and other developments in the region.”

Duterte admitted that he became “a cynic” to the U.S., stressing that if the country really wants to help the Philippines, it should show through delivering vaccines against COVID-19.

“Do not believe in that sh*t, na America delivering kaagad. Hindi nga nila ma-deliver agad sa kanilang lugar, dito pa (Do not believe in that sh*t that America will deliver immediately. They can’t even deliver it right away in their area, what more here)?” he said.

“Naging cynic ako sa kanila. Kung ibigay, eh di ibigay (I’ve become a cynic to them. If they give it, then give it). If you want to help, you deliver (and) stop talking. What we need is the vaccine, not your verbose speeches,” he added.

Pfizer applies for EUA in PH
U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. has applied for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of its COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines, according to Malacañang.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director-General Rolando Domingo confirmed Pfizer submitted its application on Dec. 23.

“It will take FDA 21 days to evaluate and approve the EUA but vaccination would start as soon as stocks become available,” he explained Saturday.

Domingo, for his part, said Pfizer will not have difficulties in obtaining the EUA for its COVID vaccine.

“Pag nanggaling na sa (If it has already come from) stringent regulatory authority like the U.S. FDA and UK, there would be minimal requirement,” he said.

Meanwhile, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced that U.S. drugmaker Moderna is “on board” and “accelerating” a huge shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine to the country.

“More good news from [Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez]: Moderna on board and accelerating huge shipment. Everything’s falling back into place,” he said in a tweet.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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