Duterte to US: No COVID vaccines, no VFA
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte told the United States on Saturday that he would push through with his plan to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) unless it was able to provide the Philippines with vaccines against the new coronavirus.
Duterte noted that the VFA was on the brink of termination, and US troops would have to leave the Philippines unless he allows them to stay.
Duterte ordered the termination of the VFA earlier this year, but suspended the six-month countdown before the military agreement lapses.
The deal allows American soldiers to hold military exercises in the Philippines.
“If they are not able to deliver a minimum of 20 million vaccines, they better get out. No vaccine, no stay here,” Duterte said during a meeting in Malacañang, drawing applause from his officials.
If the United States wants to provide vaccines to the country, it should just do so without making “so much noise,” he said.
He noted that the United States was scrambling to produce vaccines for its people, with American pharmaceutical company Pfizer “up to its neck producing it for everybody.” And yet, he said, it was promising to provide many countries with vaccines against the virus that causes COVID-19.
May be signed by January
He made the statements as he once more addressed controversies about the county’s vaccine acquisition plan. Carlito Galvez Jr., who is in charge of the national vaccination program, said the deals to acquire vaccines from Pfizer and Novovax may be signed by January.
Duterte told Galvez that he should not worry too much about the cost of the vaccines. He told the former military chief of staff to purchase what is available because “it’s an emergency.”
The President also asked Dr. Eric Domingo, director general of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not to prolong the approval of vaccines that already passed through the government regulators of the United States and the United Kingdom.
Domingo said that the FDA only had a few requirements for vaccine manufacturers that had secured the approval of the regulatory agencies in the United Kingdom and the United States.
The FDA’s concern is the stability of the vaccines in the Philippine climate and their effectivity for Asians, Domingo said. The FDA also wanted to ensure that the vaccine registered in other countries would be the same to be used in the Philippines, he added.
Soldiers already vaccinated
Domingo said the FDA would be stricter about approving vaccines from China because these have not yet secured approval from counterparts in other countries. Duterte disclosed that many in the Philippines had already been given the vaccine from Sinopharm, a Chinese pharmaceutical company.
“I have to be frank, I have to tell the truth. I will not foist a lie. Many [soldiers] have been vaccinated,” he said, adding that it was “for the select few, not all soldiers, because it is not yet policy.”
In response, Domingo noted that authorities have not caught anyone with unathorized vaccines in raids in Makati and Binondo.
The Sinopharm vaccine has been approved for emergency use in China and in several countries including the United Arab Emirates, where it is undergoing clinical trial.
The President said even members of the New People’s Army would be eligible to get the vaccine from the government.
The vaccine would be available to all Filipinos, he said. INQ
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