Philippines’ Duterte to Prioritize China, Russia Vaccine Offers

Philippines’ Duterte to Prioritize China, Russia Vaccine Offers

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he would prioritize China and Russia in sourcing a Covid-19 vaccine over Western drugmakers, which require cash advances in exchange for supplies.

“We will give preference to Russia and China, provided that their vaccine is as good as any other in the market,” Duterte said in a pre-recorded briefing Monday night, adding that both countries have not asked for upfront payments. Philippine law prevents government from making pre-payments to procure non-existent products, Duterte said while threatening to kick out representatives of Western drugmakers for asking cash advances to reserve vaccine stocks.

The Philippines has seen a resurgence in new infections, topping 3,000 in the last seven days. It reported 4,699 cases on Monday to bring the total to nearly 266,000, the most in Southeast Asia.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano said during Monday’s briefing the country’s virus task force will review Tuesday its decision relaxing distancing rules on public transport after health care workers warned this could increase Covid-19 infections and deaths. Studies show the risk of transmission can be managed if people don’t eat, talk or use their mobile phones while commuting, the task force’s chief implementer Carlito Galvez said in the same briefing.