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Virus, black prop and geopolitics

“It’s a country in a hurry. Its development of the Covid vaccines is proof that it does not want to lag anymore.



Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to the Philippines has again emphasized our country’s strategic importance to China’s political and economic future on its way to becoming a global superpower.

Wang was here until Saturday on a short week’s visit.

It was to help amplify China’s commitment to President Rodrigo Duterte whose pivot to our giant neighbor rankled the United States — the world leader that made the Philippines its home in Southeast Asia for so long.

His commanding presence in Malacañang where he paid a visit to Duterte on Saturday was softened by his promise to donate half-a-million doses of Covid vaccines.

He did not specify the company that will provide the jabs China would give.

Still, those are good for 250,000 people whether they are from Sinovac or Sinopharm.

China and the Philippine governments’ concern, however, is the Filipino people’s lack of trust and confidence on the East Asian vaccine, which Wang had tried to reverse with his donation.

It is a small amount that is still welcome as the Philippines has yet to roll out vaccines for the frontline workers and the poor sector whom Duterte had promised to provide with free jabs.

Most Filipinos are crossing their fingers that they would administer with US or European-made vaccines although initial reports claimed the Philippines would be purchasing the needed doses from any company that would allot their vials to the country and seek Emergency Use Authority (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

As of this writing, the FDA had given Pfizer the right to distribute its vaccines locally via an EUA. Officials are still knocking on the doors of other pharma firms.

In the absence of vaccines which are only expected to arrive after January, unauthorized distribution of the anti-Covid vials had been reportedly rampant in the black market.

How these doses managed to make it past the Bureau of Customs was questioned by several lawmakers who are trying to determine how these jabs made it to the hands of Duterte’s Presidential Security Group and the more than 100,000 foreign workers stationed in the country.

Worse still, the New York Post reported on 16 January that the vaccine could fetch between $200 and $300 on the black market, presumably for both doses. It quoted from an interview with Filipino-Chinese civic leader Teresita Ang See.

The Post also used an interview with a source who claimed that some of the foreign workers who availed of shots were given Pfizer vaccines.
Not jabs from Sinopharm. Not vaccines from Sinovac.

Both pharma companies have been at the end of attacks from some Western media outlets since late last year.

They are being discredited for their efficacy, which is said to be just at 50 percent.

What’s not being said is China’s role in the development of these vaccines, including those of the US and European pharma companies, which benefited from the genetic code provided by China after the initial spread of the coronavirus from Wuhan.

Philippine vaccine expert Dr. Lulu Bravo summed it up by saying: “We owe it to China for giving us the genetic code also being used by Pfizer and Moderna.”

“Vaccines are an investment in health. As they say, a superior doctor prevents a disease, an inferior doctor treats a disease.

It is not easy to debate on many issues (surrounding the vaccines, but we are not lacking in experts… those with expertise in clinical trials,” she added.
It’s now up to the government to reverse the distrust on vaccines.

Wang’s presence had somehow softened the issue on trust and confidence by the Filipinos on anything that is China as it was not just the vaccines the State Counselor had offered, but also a $77 million grant to finance infrastructure projects, and the completion of the China-funded infrastructure projects — a $400 million bridge plan that will connect Samal Island to Duterte’s home city Davao, and a $940 million cargo railway project linking Subic Bay Freeport Zone and Clark airport.

The world, however, is looking at developments in the US and how incoming US President Joe Biden, who will be inaugurated on Wednesday, will be able to regain the formerly strong US traction in the Asia-Pacific.

It could mean a change in the manner US-made vaccines are rolled out to other countries.

Lack of action would give China some plusses the US would not be able to regain quickly.

Wang had had only planted some seeds, though. It would take time before he sees them blossom under the shadows of age-old trees long cultivated by the US in this side of the world.

But it’s a country in a hurry. Its development of the Covid vaccines is proof that it does not want to lag anymore.