MANILA — China will donate more coronavirus vaccines to the Philippines as it faces the threat of the highly infectious COVID-19 Delta variant, its envoy to the country said on Thursday, even as the two sides remain locked in a maritime dispute.
China was the first country to dispatch a medical team, donate test kits and safety gear, and export a large amount of vaccine to the Philippines, said Beijing's Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian.
"China has become [the] Philippines’ largest and stablest source of the vaccines and other pandemic goods. As the Philippines is facing an increase in demand of vaccines, we will donate more and substantively increase supply of vaccines to the Philippines," he said.
Huang gave the remarks at the inauguration of the China-funded Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge that connects the cities of Mandaluyong and Makati.
He did not say how many more COVID-19 vaccine shots from China will be donated to the Philippines.
Jabs developed by Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech make up over half of the Philippines' coronavirus vaccine supply, which includes at least 1 million donated doses.
"China and the Philippines are close neighbors that cannot be separated and moved away... There are a thousand reasons to make our relationship a success, and not a single reason to weaken it," Huang said.
Beijing has snubbed a United Nations-backed court's 2016 ruling that junked its historical claims to the South China Sea, within which is the smaller West Philippine Sea.
President Rodrigo Duterte has refused to press China to follow the ruling, an arbitral award to a Philippine filing, as he pursued investments and loans from the economic superpower.
He has repeatedly thanked China for its coronavirus vaccines and other pandemic aid.
The Philippines has the second-worst COVID-19 outbreak in Southeast Asia, with more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases and some 27,000 deaths.
With only 6 percent of the Philippines' 109 million people fully vaccinated against COVID-19, millions remain vulnerable to getting severely ill once infected. The government is aiming to fully immunize up to 70 million people before the year ends.
– With a report from Reuters
Video courtesy of RTVM