MANILA - Chinese President Xi Jinping has assured Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte of China’s commitment to make its vaccine for COVID-19 “available for all," and that the Philippines, "as a friendly neighbor, would certainly be a priority.”
The Chinese Embassy said in a tweet that the two leaders’ phone conversation Thursday night lasted 38 minutes.
The embassy said the two leaders pledged to work together in the fight against COVID-19 as part of international efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
According to Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua, Duterte assured Xi that the Philippines “will always be a friend of the Chinese people and will not allow anyone to use the Philippines to engage in anti-China activities.”
Duterte and Xi spoke on the phone Thursday night, three days after the Philippines and China marked the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, and the eve of the commemoration of Philippine Independence Day.
The two sides have maintained cordial relations despite unresolved disputes in the South China Sea.
Xi assured Duterte of China’s continued support in the fight against COVID-19, saying China’s COVID-19 vaccine, “after research and development and being put into use, will be made a global public good, which will benefit all mankind.”
The virus, which originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, has sickened over 24,000 and killed over 1,000 in the Philippines, left thousands jobless, forced thousands of migrant workers to return home, and shuttered businesses.
Xi, meanwhile, expressed confidence that the two countries’ friendship and mutual trust will “deepen over time” and lead to broader development under their comprehensive strategic cooperation.
“Upholding friendship between China and the Philippines fully conforms to the fundamental and long-term interests of the two peoples, and history will surely prove that,” Xinhua quoted Xi as saying.
Duterte then pointed out that the Philippine side “has made great efforts to continuously deepen the friendship between the two peoples and hopes to expand exchanges and cooperation with China in various fields and promote resumption of work and production as soon as possible,” adding that the Philippines would continue “strengthening cooperation with the Chinese side and the World Health Organization” amid the pandemic.
Xi stressed the need for China and the Philippines to “devise innovative approaches and methods while conducting COVID-19 control on an ongoing basis in order to gradually resume exchanges of necessary personnel and promote practical cooperation in various areas in a coordinated way.”
Duterte, as president, has traveled several times to China, while Xi held a historic state visit to Manila in 2018, the first of a Chinese President in 13 years.