PH keen on cooperating with Russia for local production of COVID-19 vaccine, says official

Willard Cheng and Johnson Manabat, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 25 2021 08:58 PM

MANILA - The Philippines expressed interest in cooperating with Russia to localize production of vaccines against COVID-19 and for other diseases in the future, according to a foreign affairs official on Tuesday.

Speaking at a virtual conference, Undersecretary Elizabeth Buensuceso described Russia as a “reliable partner on vaccine procurement and manufacturing”, thanking the country for the supply of 30,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine this month.

The conference on Philippines-Russia Bilateral Relations was held to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. 

“As the virus will be with us for many years to come, in one form or another, the Philippines is interested in cooperating with Russia in localizing vaccine manufacturing,” Buensuceso said. 

“Vaccine cooperation with Russia is not only limited to the COVID-19. PH and Russia could participate in joint cooperation projects for producing vaccines for other viral diseases in the future, especially when the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines is established,” she added.

Aside from defense cooperation, Buensuceso said the Philippines and Russia could collaborate on space cooperation, pointing out that Manila has just established its space agency and “we could learn a lot from Russia’s advanced technological know-how on space exploration.”

“We look forward to the conclusion of the PH-Russia Agreement on Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes,” she said.

Buensuceso said the Philippine Space Agency is keen on developing joint activities with ROSCOSMOS and GLAVKOSMOS in space science and technology applications under the agreement.

It is interested as well in undertaking university exchange programs on space law and policy, human resources development for high-tech industries, and on rocket science and engineering.

On energy cooperation, she invited Russian companies to participate in Philippine oil and gas exploration and development through the Philippine Conventional Energy Contracting Program (PCECP). 

“The Philippines and Russia could also cooperate on the peaceful use of nuclear energy,” she said.

On Filipino migrants in Russia, Buensuceso said negotiations for a Bilateral Labor Agreement have started.

She said a change in the Russian labor law now allows individual Russians to seek Filipino workers provided they fulfill certain criteria such as approval from the district or regional office of the Ministry of Labor and Social Services (ROSMINTRUD), and proof that no Russian citizens could be found to fulfill job requirements. 

“We look forward to positive developments with regard the eventual successful conclusion of the Bilateral Labor Agreement, which will solve the current challenges faced by both our countries in our bilateral labor relations,” she said.

Philippine Ambassador to Russia Carlos Sorreta recounted the foreign policy adopted by President Rodrigo Duterte upon assuming power in 2016 that "deepened" its "ties with non-traditional partners."

"This historic shift put a spotlight under Russian federation in terms of our relationship. President Duterte said, over two decades after the end of the Cold War, we have hardly evolved, keeping Russia on the margins of diplomacy, for him. It was political and security cooperation that will pose the biggest challenge to this policy. Exchanges prior to 2016 had been virtually non-existent,” Sorreta said.

“Marked by two presidential visits two years apart, and a new and comprehensive legal framework of cooperation in the past 5 years, the Philippine Foreign Secretary visited Russia 4 times; Defense Secretary (Delfin) Lorenzana was in Russia 5 times; while National Security Adviser (Hermogenes) Esperon visited 4 times. Prior to these visits, no Defense Secretary or National Security Adviser had ever visited Russia in an official capacity. Each of these visits had full and fruitful agenda, and during this time, for the very first time, we received military aids from Russia,” he added.

"If we have not taken this road to deepen our relations with Russia, some say that we might... at the tail-end of a long line for Russia’s very precious COVID-19 vaccine,” noted Sorreta.

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, for his part, expressed hope that tourism in both countries will recover following the pandemic.

He said preparations for Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.'s possible visit to Moscow are being made.

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