MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The head of the Philippine military has asked the Chinese Embassy in Manila for help in buying an unregistered drug from Beijing that supposedly helped him recover from COVID-19 infection.
Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., in a letter, asked Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian for assistance in procuring 5 boxes of Carrimycin tablets.
"The said medicine helped me in my recovery from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection and I intend to give the said drug to my close friends who have also been infected," the letter read.
"I took Carrimycin tablets given to me by a Chinese friend with a dosage of two tablets a day for six days. On April 5, I was tested negative for COVID-19."
The AFP chief's letter was authentic and has since been withdrawn, his spokesman Edgard Arevalo said in a statement Wednesday.
"He believes he has been cured by the medicine and it was effective. He doesn’t want to keep the cure to himself and would like to share his experience to some of his friends," Arevalo said.
"We do not see any conflict of interest. This is about medicine that the AFP Chief feels can save people’s lives. That is more compelling."
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, meantime, appealed for understanding for Santos' action since the latter had suffered from the respiratory illness.
"Hindi naman siguro very improper yung ginawa nya, wala lang sa lugar dahil dapat 'yung mga ganung sulat idinadaan muna sa Department of Foreign Affairs," he said in a virtual press briefing.
(It wasn't very improper. It was just out of place because letters like those should be coursed through the Department of Foreign Affairs.)
"Wala naman siyang kasalanan na nagviolate ng regulation or imperiled our national security kaya we will let the matter rest na kasi he already admitted and he explained to me the reason why he did it."
(He did not violate any regulator or imperiled our national security so we will let the matter rest already because he already admitted and he explained to me the reason why he did it.)
Speaking to radio DZMM, Food and Drug Administration director-general Eric Domingo said the agency has yet to receive an application for the product's registration.
Domingo said the unregistered drug from China was included in the World Health Organization's list of traditional Chinese medicine being used in treating COVID-19 and has been approved by Beijing's FDA.
"Ang appeal po namin, kung talagang naniniwala sa kanilang produkto, hindi naman po natin sila pahihirapan lalo na kung tested ito atsaka rehistrado sa bansang pinanggalingan niya," he said.
(Our appeal to them is if they truly believe in their product, we will not make it hard for them, especially if their product has been tested and registered in the country where it came from.)
"Meron pong prosesong gagawin para mabenta niyo po nang tama iyan sa tamang paraan, at magagamit nang mabuti. Kailangan lang po talaga kapag kayo ang importer meron po kayong responsibilidad sa inyong mga kliyente."
(There's a process so they can sell their products in the right way and use it for good. Importers just need to have responsibility to their clients.)
The FDA has so far approved the use of some donated hydroxycholoroquine and Avigan to the Department of Health, Domingo said.
--Report from Niko Baua, ABS-CBN News