MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he would volunteer for the clinical trials of a coronavirus vaccine from Russia, which has offered to supply COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines for free.
"Maligayang maligaya ako, ang Russia, kaibigan natin ito. Wala tayong away sa Russia, kaibigan natin. Ang ano nila, magbigay sila ng bakuna. Wala naman silang sinasabi na bayaran mo," he said.
"Ito, tingin ko kay President Putin, tulong niya sa atin, libre. Kaya ngayon, tinatanggap natin, at kung ano ang supply, mag-usap pa kami. Kung ilan ang supply, at kailangan natin may clinical ano 'yan, clinical studies," he added, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Duterte also said he would volunteer to be vaccinated in public to show that the Russian drug is safe.
"There will be volunteers. Ako, pagdating ng bakuna, in public, para walang satsat 'yan, in public, magpa-injection ako. Ako 'yung maunang ma-eksperimentuhan. Okay para sa akin," he said.
"Sabihin ko rin kay President Putin na malaki ang tiwala ko, your studies in combating COVID and I believe that the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity," Duterte added.
Duterte, likewise, appealed to the public to just wait for the vaccine. He also expressed hope that the country would be free from COVID-19 by December.
"Hintay na lang kayo, kaunti na lang talaga. By December, in the fullness of God's time, we will have a, hopefully, a COVID-free December and we can enjoy this Christmas season," he said.
Duterte's office said the country is "ready to work with Russia on clinical trials, vaccine supply and production," according to a letter posted by Philippine ambassador to Russia Carlos Sorreta on social media.
"Like similar bilateral and multilateral arrangements, all cooperation initiatives will be consistent with protocols for testing and health standards," the letter read.
"International cooperation is key to effectively combat this global pandemic. Consistent with the President's independent foreign policy, we continue to work with partners across the world to ensure access to safe vaccine."
On Friday, Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev said proposals to conduct clinical trials and the possible local production of the vaccine have been submitted to local authorities.
Saying Russia already has an "effective" and "safe" COVID-19 vaccine, Khovaev said his government was ready to share it with interested international partners, including the Philippines.
He added that he expected the vaccine to get regulatory approval in Russia by mid-August before launching production.
Khovaev said Russian citizens would be vaccinated for free.
The government has allotted an initial budget of P2.4 billion for COVID-19 vaccines, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday.
As of Monday, the Philippines has logged a total of 136,638 total confirmed COVID-19 cases, with infection continuing to surge over recent weeks despite the extended lockdown.
Of this number, 66,186 are considered active cases, while 68,159 have recovered. There are also 2,293 fatalities.