AFP shows distrust of Reds’ assurance they won’t impede vaccine transport
MANILA, Philippines—The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Tuesday (Feb. 9) scoffed at the Communist Party of the Philippines’ offer to assure safe passage of coronavirus vaccines in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s public appeal.
“In the best interest of life, welfare and wellbeing of fellow Filipinos, the CPP-NPA should not sound chivalrous about allowing the passage without delay of vaccines in all parts of the country,” AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a statement.
He said rebels “should have done so in many instances in the past” when soldiers were instead gunned down during missions to bring aid to calamity-stricken parts of the country.
CPP spokesperson Marco Valbeuna said rebels would allow the “safe and unimpeded passage” of vaccines in “guerrilla bases and zones” in a statement issued a day after Duterte appealed to rebels to allow the vaccines’ unimpeded transport.
“I am appealing to the Communist Party of the Philippines, the main umbrella, I don’t consider the NDF, NDF including NPA, the Communist Party of the Philippines must guarantee that the vaccines in the course of their being transported to areas where there are no city health officers or medical persons, for you not to impede the movement of medicines,” Duterte said partly in Filipino on Monday (Feb. 8).
Though CPP said it would not interfere in vaccine transport, it opposed the use of military vehicles for the vaccination program which was to start later this month.
“We strongly suggest that vaccines not be transported in AFP military vehicles, especially those which are not properly marked and carrying armed soldiers,” CPP said.
It accused the military of “carrying out combat and psy-war operations behind the veil of implementing COVID-19 restrictions.”
Instead, the CPP said that Philippine Red Cross, International Committee of the Red Cross and other civilian humanitarian agencies should take charge of vaccine rollout in “interior areas.”
The military, however, was expected to play a key role in the distribution of the much-awaited vaccines nationwide once supplies arrive because it has the assets for the job.
Military planes, ships and other vehicles were relied on to transport stranded passengers, personal protective equipment and other crucial supplies since the pandemic started in 2020.
Arevalo said it was up not up to the CPP which vehicles would be used “if he cannot provide any alternative.”
“We urge the CPP-NPA not to take advantage of the pandemic to salvage their reputation that they vastly eroded or attempt to build an image which is in stark contrast with what they are doing,” he said.
“They should instead cooperate by simply allowing government to pass and bring the vaccines to our needy countrymen,” he added.
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