(UPDATE) President Rodrigo Duterte said in his State of the Nation Address Monday that he "made a plea" to his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to give the Philippines first access to a China-made COVID-19 vaccine. He also reiterated that diplomacy will be Manila's way forward with Beijing.
Should the vaccine need to be bought, Duterte said he asked Xi if "we will be granted credit so we can normalize as fast as possible."
The Philippines doesn't produce vaccines and imports all its immunization requirements. It is set to hold human trials with at least five vaccine candidates from China and Taiwan. It is also part of the World Health Organization's solidarity trials and tests by the COVAX global alliance. Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez also said he put the country in line for US-made vaccines.
"Four days ago, I made a plea to President Xi Jinping that if they have the vaccine, can they allow us to be one of the first," Duterte said.
During the SONA, Duterte also appealed for the passage of the second Bayanihan law, aimed at economic recovery.
It was under Duterte that the Philippines sought to repair diplomatic and economic ties with China that were damaged by a long-running dispute in the South China Sea.
"China is claiming it. We are claiming it. China has the arms. We do not have it so it’s simple as that. They are in possession of the property, so what can we do? We have to go to war, and I cannot afford it. Maybe some other President can, but I cannot.”
“Unless we are prepared to go to war, I suggest that we better just cool off and treat this as a diplomatic endeavor," he said.