Duterte says to end VFA if US ‘can’t deliver at least 20 million doses’ of vaccine

AdChoiceTV News — President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday night threatened to go through with ending the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States if it fails to deliver millions of doses of US-made COVID-19 vaccine.

The president’s latest pronouncement follows the supposed botched negotiations with the US drugmaker Pfizer for 10 million doses and as his administration faces criticism of lagging behind in the global race to secure doses.

US firms Moderna Therapeutics and Arcturus Therapeutics are ready to supply four to 25 million doses of their vaccines beginning the third quarter of next year should the government find their proposals acceptable, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said in a statement earlier this month.

“If they can’t deliver at least 20 million doses at a minimum, they better get out,” Duterte said in English during his televised meeting with the coronavirus task force. “No vaccine, no stay here.”

Duterte, who has not had a warm relations with Washington largely due to his drug war, nixed the decades-old VFA in early February after the US reportedly cancelled the visa of Sen. Bato dela Rosa over his role in the government’s “war on drugs”.

The VFA, which governs the status and treatment of US soldiers in the Philippines and allows them to hold military exercises and provide technical assistance to security personnel, has been criticized in the past for allowing foreign troops in the country and for keeping the Philippines dependent on the US.

Duterte suspended the termination of the VFA in June “in light of political and other developments in the region” and, in November, extended the suspension for another six months.

The Philippines has so far secured only 2.6 million doses from AstraZeneca as a donation from the private sector, and the administration has yet to sign deals with drugmakers with only a few days before the year ends. 

Officials have since denied that the country was late into talks for securing doses, even with Duterte only approving advanced payments in November after shunning the move which he said was the West making profit for the vaccines.

Its move to procure 25 million doses of China’s Sinovac has also been widely criticized because the vaccine is more expensive and has a lower efficacy rate of 50%.

“Do not believe s*** about America delivering immediately,” Duterte said. “If America wants to help, you deliver. Stop talking, what we need is the vaccine. Not your verbose speeches.”

The administration is looking to inoculate 24.7 million Filipinos in 2021, with Sinovac seen to arrive the earliest by March, and AstraZeneca by the second quarter.

Over a million individuals in the US have already been inoculated after the Food and Drug Administration there issued emergency use approvals to Pfizer and Moderna. By mid-December, a global tracker also reported that there are now 11.6 billion doses reserved even before a vaccine is put out in the market.

Indonesia, which has the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia, has so far secured 335.5 million doses, according to the report.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, it seems that Duque is still weighing amount of corruption they can make before making decisions. And feeding wrong intel to Duterte — via Irvin Chua / AdChoiceTV News

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