PH may be back to normal by 2023, says Duterte

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines may have to wait until the first or second quarter of 2023 before it can return to normalcy or a pre-pandemic condition, President Rodrigo Duterte said Sunday.

Duterte made the remark after the country received its first shipment of 600,000 doses of Sinovac Biotech Covid-19 vaccines donated by the Chinese government.

He said the government will expedite its Covid-19 immunization program.

“In about maybe early year 2023, not 2022. Ito ngayon hanggang katapusan ng buwan, paspasan tayo,” he said in a press conference after the turnover ceremony of the Sinovac vaccines at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

“Early in the first, maybe the first or second quarter of year 2023, baka, sa tulong ng Diyos,” the President added.

With the arrival of the vaccines on Sunday, the first shots are expected to be administered in several hospitals in Metro Manila by Monday, March 1.

Meanwhile, President Duterte said the Philippines is expected to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19 in early 2022, but he admitted that he has an “incomplete and inadequate knowledge” of the matter.

The Philippines may have difficulty in achieving herd immunity because of its archipelagic geography and the hesitancy of some Filipinos to get vaccinated, he added.

“Para sa akin personally mas maganda kung contiguous ang territory because you only have to do a circle, paliit nang paliit, paliit nang paliit hanggang — towards the center of gravity. Eh ito island per island eh. And we cannot stop travel. And we cannot expect all people to agree to be vaccinated. That is the problem,” he said.

(Personally, it is better if the territory is contiguous)

“We have to take into account the freedom of an individual of what happens to his body. Nobody but nobody can tinker with his — the human life kung hindi siya. Kung ayaw niya, that makes it doubly hard for us,” Duterte added.