In what seemed like a case of “laban-bawi” (charge and retreat) Vaccine czar and National Task Force on Covid-19 response chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. on Friday said the Philippines should “set aside” its differences with China on the issue of the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to end the Covid-19 pandemic.
He, however, retracted his statement after Senator Risa Hontiveros expressed alarm over his answer during the Senate inquiry on the government’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
Hontiveros asked Galvez to make an assurance that the Philippine interest in the WPS will not be compromised just to avail of the vaccines from China.
“In this pandemic, the global interest of the global commons is really to save humanity, all countries rallied to support each other. That’s the context we are looking at,”
Galvez said. “So, the differences on the West Philippine Sea, should be set aside because this is a global pandemic. We need to solve a global menace in order to control and contain the pandemic,” he added.
In response, Hontiveros said she was “quite surprised” with Galvez’s answer. She insisted that the Philippine claim on the disputed territory is not a quid pro quo or a trade-off for a vaccine.
He then clarified that the Philippines will “not compromise our stake”.
“We are adhering with the concept of equitable access, the safety, and efficacy of the vaccine, and at the same time, we are looking at the global interest of really putting an end to this pandemic,” Galvez said.
Recently, China, through its State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, announced that it will donate 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to the Philippines.
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, meanwhile, has called for a unified, whole-of-government effort to expedite the vaccine procurement to effectively implement the jabs roadmap.
“I continue to appeal before our leaders — the President, our Senate President, as well as other elected and appointed officials — for the sake of our country and the poor, let us have a united stand so that the rollout will not be delayed and for us to return to normal,” Go said.
Food and Drug Administration Director-General Eric Domingo said the government remains on track to issuing an emergency use authorization (EUA) to AstraZeneca by the end of this month.
“That’s our target,” Domingo said. “They need to respond to the requirements set by the government within seven to 10 days and we can approve the EUA”.