Threat to scrap VFA ‘sealed’ PH’s fate to settle for China’s vaccines–Lacson
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Panfilo Lacson thumbed down President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent warning to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), raising the possibility that it could have limited the country’s source of COVID vaccines to those developed by China.
“‘No vaccines, no VFA!’ Treating the Americans as a bunch of yokels might have sealed our fate to settle for China’s Sinovac in lieu of the US-made Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines,” Lacson said in a statement on Monday.
Over the weekend, the President threatened to push through with the abrogation of the VFA if the United States fails to supply the Philippines with at least 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
But Lacson reiterated that there could have been a “more diplomatic or at least a better way of asking a longtime ally to help us avail of the vaccines for our people without sounding like we are blackmailing our way into it.”
“What is more unfortunate is that we had a good chance to procure vaccines early from the US, but someone from our side dropped the ball and has yet to be held accountable up to this day,” the senator added.
Earlier, Duterte’s appointed health chief, Sec. Francisco Duque III, received backlash after he was accused of “dropping the ball” on a Pfizer vaccine deal, which supposedly would have secured the delivery of 10 million doses of the company’s vaccines to the Philippines as early as January 2021.
The government is banking on China’s Sinovac vaccine to be the first to reach the Philippines with officials saying it may arrive in the first quarter of 2021.
The government is looking to secure up to 25 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine.
The country has so far formally secured 2.6 million doses of vaccine from British drugmaker AstraZeneca, which are expected to arrive in the second quarter of 2021.
Senator Richard Gordon also opposed the President’s threat, stressing that “national interest must be the only consideration for a VFA.”
National interest must be the only consideration for a VFA. “No vaccine No VFA threat “upon the US is totally inappropriate, mercenary & lessens the dignity of the Philippines.ADVERTISEMENT
— Richard J. Gordon (@DickGordonDG) December 28, 2020
“[The] ‘No vaccine No VFA threat’ upon the US is totally inappropriate, mercenary [and] lessens the dignity of the Philippines,” Gordon said in a tweet.
Duterte first ordered the termination of the VFA last February in response to the revocation of the US visa of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, his former police chief who led his brutal war on drugs.
In June, the Philippines backtracked from the termination that was supposed to take effect in August due to “political and other developments in the region.” The suspension “shall continue for 6 months.”
Last month, the Philippine government suspended the effectivity of the VFA termination but negotiations continue for a long-term arrangement.
Ratified in 1999, the VFA accorded legal status to US troops who were rotated in the country for military exercises and humanitarian assistance operations.
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