Duterte prefers COVID-19 vaccines from China, Russia

Gabriel Agcaoili, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 14 2020 11:27 PM | Updated as of Sep 15 2020 12:19 AM

MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday his administration will prioritize coronavirus vaccines made by China and Russia, if they are proven safe and effective, even as he accused Western pharmaceutical companies of "profiting" amid the pandemic.

"If the vaccine of Russia and China are equally good and effective just as any other vaccine by any country, I will buy [them] first. But then... I hope the Chinese and Russian government, that when we buy, we have to go into a bidding," Duterte said in a public briefing aired past 10 p.m.

"The Russian and the pharmaceutical companies of China can, very well, join us."

The President said he prefers China and Russia because of their "generosity" to the Philippines when "nothing at all was in sight" during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We were drifting, tapos dumating itong bagyo. Walang ibang bayan na tumulong sa atin," he said. 

(We were drifting, then this storm came. No other country helped us.)

Claiming that Western countries and companies "want cash advance" for help, Duterte said the Philippines doesn't "need to beg or to plead" to China for a COVID-19 vaccine.

"Kaya sabi ko we will give preference to Russia and China provided that their vaccine is as good as any other in the market. It could be as good as 'yung mga kompanyang sinabi nila, 'di ko sasabihin. Baka magpapa-advertise sila," he said.

"One thing wrong of Western countries, it's all profit, profit, profit. There's a pandemic, and you say, 'We have something for sale. Or something to sell to you.

"Now they're asking for parang reservation fee, wala pa sila [vaccine]. Sabi nila, 'Pag naimbento na ito, natapos na namin 'yung trials...pero kung sabihin mo na, sige, wala pa 'yung vaccine. There is nothing with finality and you want us to make a reservation by depositing money. You must be crazy," Duterte said.

Under the Government Procurement Reform Act, Philippine authorities or agencies are not allowed to buy items that have yet to be produced, the President stressed.

"If [those] companies are here, or their representatives, mag-uwi na kayo sa inyo. Kapag hindi, sipain ko kayo 'pag nakita ko kayo. If I happened to have dinner outside and see you somewhere, I'll kick your ass. Bastusin ko kayo, umuwi kayo doon sa inyo," he fumed.

A worldwide race for a coronavirus vaccine is underway, with at least nine pharmaceutical firms in late-stage Phase 3 trials.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said the Philippines is in talks with vaccine developers from Russia and China.

Russia announced in August that it has approved its proposed vaccine, named "Sputnik V" after the Soviet-era satellite that was the first launched into space in 1957. 

“As to Gamaleya Institute (of Russia), itong Sputnik S (vaccine, they already submitted their documents to us. We were able to review it already, the vaccine expert panel, and we already submitted our comments,” Vergeire said. 

“So we are just awaiting for their response on the comments of our vaccine expert panel.”

She said the other vaccines are still under negotiation, including the ones from Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm.--With a report from Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News