Duterte thanks China for COVID-19 vaccines, says Philippines to 'stay neutral' in geopolitics

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 20 2021 08:15 PM | Updated as of Aug 20 2021 11:56 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a national address from the Arcadia Active Lifestyle Center in Matina, Davao City on Aug. 16, 2021. Joey Dalumpines, Presidential Photo
President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a national address from the Arcadia Active Lifestyle Center in Matina, Davao City on Aug. 16, 2021. Joey Dalumpines, Presidential Photo

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday thanked China for its Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine donation and promised that the Philippines will “stay neutral” when it came to geopolitics.

At a program for the arrival of 739,200 donated Sinopharm coronavirus jabs, Duterte asked ambassador Huang Xilian to “convey to President Xi Jinping my deepest gratitude and many, many thanks for China’s attitude to us.”

“In these challenging times of geopolitics, Philippines will stay neutral and remain true to what we have guaranteed China at least during my term,” he continued, addressing Huang via video link. 

Beijing this month rejected the World Health Organization's calls for a renewed probe into the origins of COVID-19, which emerged from in the central China in late 2019. 

China's foreign ministry also accused the US of an obsession with "political manipulation" over the origins of the pandemic, following a report that it was working through a vast catalogue of genetic data obtained from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. 

China's Huang, in the program with Duterte, said “all nations should stick together and promote unity and strengthen cooperation,” as COVID-19 continued to ravage the world. 

“Solidarity should prevail over attempts to politicize the issue such as origins tracing and shift the blame to others,” he said. 

The Chinese official said “this difficult time highlights the friendship and partnership” between Manila and Beijing. 

“We are committed to continuing this cooperation with the Philippines and providing more vaccines to help defeat the virus and revitalize the economy,” he said. 

Duterte said his “deepest gratitude goes to China” for its various pandemic assistance, including its technical support and donation of medical supplies and equipment. 

“These initiatives are indeed a testament to the goodwill of the Chinese government and the deep, strong relations between the Philippines and China,” he said. 

Jabs developed by Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech make up around half of the Philippines' coronavirus vaccine supply. 
 
However, 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. 


 

The Philippines is battling a spike in coronavirus infections linked to the highly contagious Delta variant. The health department on Friday confirmed 17,231 new cases, the country's highest ever single-day tally. 

Government aims to vaccinate up to 70 million people before the year ends to achieve COVID-19 herd immunity and safely reopen the economy. At least 12.8 million have been fully vaccinated so far.

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