MANILA: Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to make the COVID-19 vaccine China is developing a “global public good” and said that the Philippines will be a priority recipient once it becomes available.
Xi made the commitment during a phone call with President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, on the eve of Philippines’ Independence Day celebrations.
Malacacang, the presidential palace, said the phone call lasted 38 minutes, during which the leader extended his warm wishes to Duterte and the Filipino people, who are celebrating 122 years of independence.
The two leaders also reviewed diplomatic relations between the countries, and agreed to work together to fight COVID-19 as part of international efforts to contain the virus.
According to Malacacang, Duterte received Xi’s full support on ensuring supply chain connectivity.
This will focus on critical medical supplies and equipment, promoting the free flow of goods and resuming construction of priority infrastructure cooperation projects in the Philippines, the palace said.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said: “The president mentioned to his Chinese counterpart the need for cooperation in research trials for COVID-19 vaccine development and underscored the importance of making the vaccine accessible and affordable to all countries, including the Philippines.”
He added: “President Xi, on the other hand, assured us of his country’s commitment in making the vaccine available for all, adding that the Philippines, as a friendly neighbor, would be a priority.”
Xi expressed gratitude for the Philippines’ support for China’s own fight against COVID-19, including the “goodwill donation to the city of Wuhan,” describing it as “an act of kindness that shall be returned.”
Meanwhile, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, protests in the Philippines denounced China’s alleged aggression and a controversial Manila anti-terror bill on Friday.
Demonstrators called on the government to defend the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea and stop the anti-terror bill, which they say threatens freedom of speech.
Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros was among leaders of the Independence Day protest.
Streaming live via her Facebook page, Hontiveros, along with advocacy groups and celebrity influencers, called for the government to prioritize the welfare of Filipinos.
The senator cited the Chinese government’s “brazen defiance of the law, evident in its continued aggression over the country’s exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.”
She also opposed the controversial bill, which follows the mass arrests of citizens and critics of the government’s COVID-19 response.
Hontiveros said the failure of the government to provide adequate health care and a comprehensive response to COVID-19 has continued to harm the public, including commuters, overseas nationals, and both non-medical and medical staff.