China vows to prioritize PH in virus vaccine; hails Duterte’s stand on sea row
MANILA, Philippines — China has vowed to give priority to the Philippines once it develops a vaccine for the coronavirus, which has infected over 83,000 in the country.
The Chinese government issued its assurance after President Rodrigo Duterte, in his penultimate State of the Nation Address (Sona), said he pleaded with Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow the Philippines to be the first among to secure COVID-19 vaccines.
“Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China and the Philippines have been standing together with mutual assistance, turning anti-epidemic cooperation into a new highlight in bilateral relations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Tuesday during a press briefing, a transcript of which was uploaded on the ministry’s official website.
“The Philippines is a friendly close neighbor and we will give priority to its needs once we succeed in developing a vaccine,” he added.
The Philippine government has already reached out to various COVID-19 vaccine developers from the United States, Taiwan, China, and the United Kingdom for possible purchase once vaccines have been found and become available.
Duterte has repeatedly vowed to source out funds to provide Filipinos with COVID-19 vaccines, even saying that he would sell government properties if necessary.
Over 100 potential COVID-19 vaccines are currently in development worldwide.
During his Sona, Duterte also touched upon the long-standing maritime dispute between the Philippines and China.
The President had admitted that he could not afford to go to war with Beijing to assert Manila’s sovereignty in the South China Sea. He said the dispute should be treated as a “diplomatic endeavor.”
“Unless we are prepared to go to war, I would suggest that we better just cool off,” the chief executive had said, addressing criticisms that the Philippine government is doing “nothing” to “retake forcefully or physically” the South China Sea.
Wang said China appreciated this pronouncement from the Philippine president.
“All countries are endowed with the right to uphold an independent foreign policy and to develop foreign relations based on its national interests,” the Chinese official said.
“President Duterte’s policy propositions are in keeping with the fundamental interests of the Philippines, the shared aspiration of regional countries, and the trend of the times for peace and development,” he added.
Wang also said that Beijing stands “ready to properly resolve maritime disputes with the Philippines through friendly consultations to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea and the entire region.”
“China’s position on the South China Sea is consistent and clear. As has been proven, properly handling this issue is in the interests of both China and the Philippines and regional peace and stability,” he added.
Earlier, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. called as “non-negotiable” the historic ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague on July 12, 2016, which invalidated China’s expansive claims over the entire South China Sea.
The decision also upheld the Philippines’ rights over its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
But in response, the Chinese Embassy in Manila claimed that the PCA ruling was “illegal and invalid.”
On the other hand, Malacañang had assured Filipinos that the Philippine government did not waive or relinquish its rights over the contested areas in the West Philippines Sea.
This, even after the Palace previously said it would just “agree to disagree” on China’s rejection of the Philippines’ appeal for compliance with the 2016 ruling.
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