Duterte says no strings attached to Chinese COVID-19 vaccines, 'except their boats are there'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 17 2021 08:44 AM

President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian check a vial of Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac vaccine during the arrival ceremony for the first shipment of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines to arrive in the country, at Villamor Air Base, Pasay, Metro Manila, Feb. 28, 2021. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters/File
President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian check a vial of Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac vaccine during the arrival ceremony for the first shipment of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines to arrive in the country, at Villamor Air Base, Pasay, Metro Manila, Feb. 28, 2021. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters/File

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday there were "no strings attached" to China's delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines—"except that their boats are there." 

Duterte said he had asked for anti-coronavirus jabs about a month or two ago, and that "no strings attached ang China." 

(China had no strings attached.)

"Until now, walang hiningi ‘yang China sa akin maski ballpen. Walang pinakiusap, wala lahat, except that their boats are there," the President said, appearing to refer to the West Philippine Sea. 

"Sabi ko naman, sinabi ko na ako rin sabi ko maglagay ako... Sabi ko, 'I want my ships also there.' I do not want war with anybody, not with China, lalo na Amerika kasi nandito sila sa lupa natin," he said in a taped speech that aired in the wee hours of Tuesday. 

(I said, I will also put... I said, 'I want my ships also there.' I do not want war with anybody, not with China, especially not with America, because they are here in our land.) 

Jabs developed by Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech make up about half of the Philippines' coronavirus vaccine supply, which includes at least 1 million donated doses.

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. 

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. 

"As a feature or semblance of our claim, mayroon tayong mga barko diyan at saka hindi ko na papaalisin ‘yan. No way na magsabi ako, 'atras kayo,'" Duterte said in his Monday address. 

"Kung magkaletsehan, wala tayong magawa, we have to fight, because I am not about ready to retreat. Iyon lang," he added. 

(As a feature or semblance of our claim, we have ships there and I will not withdraw them. There is no way that I will say, 'Retreat.' If things go downhill, we cannot do anything, we have to fight because I am not about ready to retreat. That's it.)

As recently as March, hundreds of Chinese boats were spotted inside the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone. China has refused repeated calls from the Philippines to withdraw the boats, and Manila stepped up maritime patrols in the area.

China in July pledged to donate more coronavirus vaccines to the Philippines as it faces the threat of the highly infectious COVID-19 Delta variant. 

"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," Beijing's Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian said. 

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The Philippines aims to vaccinate up to 70 million people before the year ends to achieve herd immunity and safely reopen the economy. At least 12.5 million people have been fully inoculated so far.