MANILA-- The Philippines is grateful to China for promising that Manila will be a priority once Beijing comes up with a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 17 million people worldwide, Malacañang said Thursday.
Beijing gave its word after President Rodrigo Duterte told Filipinos in his State of the Nation Address that he asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to prioritize the Philippines once China develops a vaccine.
The promise, according to Malacañang spokesperson Harry Roque, was part of the "fruits of independent policy" pushed by the Duterte administration.
"Nagpapasalamat po kami sa gobyerno ng Tsina dahil sa isinapubliko po nila yung kanilang posisyon na bilang malapit na kaibigan ng Tsina, ang Pilipinas po ay makikinabang dun sa vaccine na made-develop nila," Roque said in a press briefing.
(We thank the government of China because they made public their position to prioritize the Philippines, as a close friend of China, for a vaccine that they will develop.)
While other world leaders such as US President Donald Trump have criticized China for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, a case of which was first reported in a Chinese province, Duterte has been supportive of Beijing, even thanking the East Asian nation for its support to the Philippines during the crisis.
Chinese firms are responsible for 2 of the 3 most advanced coronavirus vaccines that had entered Phase 3 trials, or large-scale testing on humans -- the last step before regulatory approval.
The third experimental vaccine on Phase 3 was developed by Oxford University in Britain and pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca.
Roque, however, noted that the Philippines remains open to other vaccines that other countries may develop as Manila remains a "friend to all and enemy to no one."
"Tayo naman po ay nakikipag-kaibigan sa lahat. Asahan po natin na 'yung ibang kaibigan natin sa Amerika, sa Europa at iba pang parte ng daigdig ay ishe-share din po sa atin ang kanilang mga vaccine kung mayroon na sila," he said.
(We are friends to all. Let's expect that our allies in the Americas, Europe and in other parts of the world will share their vaccine once they come up with one.)
As of July 29, the Philippines has confirmed 85,486 COVID-19 cases, of which 56,528 are active cases.
The country has also reported 1,962 deaths due to the virus and 26,996 recoveries.