MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte has received assurance from Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc of unimpeded rice imports as the coronavirus crisis continues, Malacañang said Wednesday.
Upon the request of Phúc, the two leaders spoke over the phone on Tuesday night to discuss possible areas of cooperation in the fight against COVID-19, including food supply, the Presidential Communications Operations Office said in a statement.
"We assure you that Vietnam will continue to supply rice to the Philippines on a long-term basis at competitive prices," the Vietnamese leader was quoted by the Palace as telling President Duterte.
Ensuring supply of the staple grain is among the Philippine government's key concerns as the public grew wary over access to food in light of lockdowns.
Earlier this month, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said "Vietnam is making a valuable contribution in strengthening ASEAN cooperation and internal unity" by approving the resumption of rice exports to maintain ample supply in Southeast Asian nations.
"We need to keep the regional market open for trade and ensure the sustainability of the supply chain among ASEAN member-states, especially for food and other essential goods,” Dar had said.
COOPERATION AGAINST COVID-19 PANDEMIC
During the phone call, the Palace said President Duterte also stressed the "vital need" to boost the production of medical equipment and supplies needed in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hanoi has seen relative success in its fight against the pandemic with over 90 percent of its confirmed cases reported to have recovered.
Malacañang said Duterte praised Vietnam's "effective" response to the pandemic, noting that Manila and Hanoi could share best practices.
As of Wednesday, COVID-19 cases in the Philippines have reached 15,049 after the Department of Health reported 380 new cases.
This is the highest number of new cases in 51 days since the 414 new cases reported on April 6. It is also the 4th highest number of new cases reported since the start of the outbreak.
The figure includes 904 deaths and 3,506 recoveries.
-with a report from Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News, and Reuters