Duterte: No 20M vaccines, US forces out, no VFA

President Rodrigo Duterte renews his threat to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is US fail to deliver at least 20 millions vaccines for the Philippines.

“Kung hindi sila maka deliver maski a minimum of mga 20 million vaccines, they better get out. No vaccine, no stay here,” 

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Pres. Duterte issued the statement during his meeting with Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on Saturday night.

It is to be remebered that on January 23, Pres. Duterte threatened to terminate VFA over US government’s cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa. Dela Rosa’s visa.

20 million vaccines

In a meeting with Pres. Duterte on November 23, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez says the Philippines needs to raise P73.2 billion ($1.5 billion) to pay for Covid-19 vaccines for 60 million Filipinos.

The funds are targeted to be sourced out of loans from Asian Development Bank and World Bank (P40 billion), Landbank, Development Bank, and government corporations (P20 billion), and from countries developing vaccines (P13.2 billion).

The Philippines is then able to secure 2.5 million doses of vaccines from British drug maker AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals Philippines Inc. which was bankrolled by local private companies such as SM Investment Corp.

This was followed by government-appointed vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr’s pronouncement on December 14 that the Philippine government is hoping to finalize the deal with Chinese vaccine manufacturer Sinovac Biotech to supply the Philippines with 25 million doses of coronavirus vaccines by March 2021.

“We have already conveyed our needs. Sabi namin 25 million for 2021, Sinovac only… We want to finalize this week our final negotiations so we can firm up the head of terms and also we are looking at the exact time of distribution,”

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr.

Aside from Sinovac Biotech, Galvez said they are also batting for other China-made vaccines from Sinopharm and CanSino. The government however is more keen on buying from Sinovac Biotech since their vaccines are three times cheaper, and that the latter is capable of producing 20 million vaccines for Philippines.

However, in a meeting with Pres. Duterte on December 21, Galvez went on to say that government might be able to secure 30 millions doses of vaccines being developed by American firm Novavax, along with its partner Serum Institute of India.

Serum Institute of India has signed a deal to produce one billion doses of Novavax’s vaccine NVX-CoV2373 in 2021 and has promised to set aside 30 million doses for Philippines.

Meanwhile, Manila Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez said in a statement that the Philippines will be able to secure between 4 million to 25 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna Inc. and Arcturus Therapeutics Holdings Inc.

Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine has been recommended for emergency approval by US panel of experts and is the second approved vaccine in Western country.

Related post: Moderna Inc. Covid-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet

Unfortunately, the Philippines missed the 10 million doses of Pfizer vaccine that is supposed to be delivered early January. In a statement made by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Health Secretary Francico Duque III “failed to work on the necessary documentary requirement namely, the Confidentiality Disclosure Agreement (CDA) as he should have done,”

Sec. Duque however defended that US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer never promised to provide the Philippine government with such after signing the CDA. He added during his interview with ABS-CBN News Channel that only ‘indicative numbers’ came up during officials talks between Pfizer and Philippine government.

“No, walang ganoon. It was all indicative numbers. There was no definitive supply. I think if you will get a chance to talk to Sec. Galvez, he would tell you there is a problem in the production of these vaccines as we are talking because meron daw problem sa kanilang raw materials.”



What is VFA?

The Visiting Forces Agreement with US was ratified by the Philippine Senate back in 1999 following its rejection in 1991 of US forces presence in Subic Naval Base.

It was put to test in October 11, 2014 with the killing of trans woman Jennifer Laude by 19-year old member of US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton then stationed in Olongapo City.

From murder, his case was downgraded to homicide with which he was convicted to serve 6 – 10 years on December 1, 2015.

vfa
Pres. Duterte grants Lance Cpl. Pemberton absolute pardon in September 2020. Photo from CNN News Philippines

However, four years ahead of completing his prison term, Pres. Duterte granted Pemberton ‘absolute pardon’ in September 2020 through Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) under Philippine law, a privilege given to detainees who exhibit exemplary behavior in prison.

The VFA is part of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) signed by US and Philippines in 1951 to defend each other from foreign aggression. It also provides rules and guidelines on the conduct of US forces while in the Philippines, enhanced through series of friendly military exercises.

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