As the Chinese military aircraft carrying the first doses of Covid-19 vaccines for the country landed and taxied at the Villamor Airbase late afternoon Sunday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, annotating for the government television station, described the historic event metaphorically in the vernacular by saying, “On this plane rests the hopes of millions of Filipinos in our fight against Covid-19.”
Of course, 600,000 doses of the all-important serum from Sinovac could be considered minimal when ranged against the 70 or so million individuals needed to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, but the Mainland’s donation matters a lot to a government badly needing something to jumpstart its vaccination program and doing its share in arresting the global pandemic.
President Duterte could not have emphasized this enough.
In his welcome address at the air base rites after the plane arrived at 4:15 p.m., the Chief Executive said: “I cannot stress (this) enough: We cannot afford to waste time or resources in the distribution of these vaccines because we are dealing with precious lives.”
Duterte then directed all concerned agencies to institutionalize the whole-of-government approach in its rollout. At the same time, the President reiterated his position that the Covid vaccines should be treated as a global public good and made available to the rich and poor.
“No nation — no people — should be left to suffer the ravages of this pandemic for whatever reason,” he added.
The President pointed out that countries must continue working together and do everything humanly possible to ensure a good outcome for every person.
“Comprehensive global recovery hinges on equal and easy access by everyone to life-saving vaccines. Because, at the end of the day, as repeatedly said, no one is safe until everyone is safe,” he noted.
He said that with the arrival of the 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines, he is confident that more batches of vaccines will be available until every Filipino will be given the chance to be vaccinated.
“I wish to assure the public that your government remains committed to a timely (vaccine) roll out that will enable us to confidently reopen our society. The delivery of this first batch, I hope, will serve as a guarantee to everyone that we are taking a big step in our efforts to overcome this health crisis,” he said.
Duterte said that the country welcomes the day with high hopes of finally ending the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
“Today, we make another step (forward) in our ongoing fight against Covid-19, as we receive 600,000 CoronaVac doses from the People’s Republic of China. I convey my sincere gratitude to the Chinese people and the government of China for this gesture of friendship and solidarity — the hallmark of Philippines-China partnership,” Duterte said.
Duterte also thanked Galvez and the “Team Pilipinas” for assuring the arrival of the vaccines.
“Before I end, I would like to just add that China has donated several vaccines to several countries. But it is only the donation made to the Philippines that was carried by a Chinese government plane. Iyong iba kinukuha doon sa China. Dito, hinatid sa atin. Maraming salamat po,” Duterte said.
He also thanked Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian for his help to ensure the timely delivery of the donation.
Duterte also announced his plan to visit China before the year ends to personally show his gratitude to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Mr. Ambassador, I’d like to just say that towards the — maybe at the end of the year, when everything has settled down, I intend to make a short visit to China to just shake hands with President Xi Jinping and to personally thank him for this donation. Thank you,” he said.
Set aside fears
Duterte appealed to Filipinos to set aside their fears and get vaccinated.
“These vaccines are backed by science and deliberated on by our experts. Filipino experts. I encourage you to get vaccinated at the soonest possible time. And be our partner in preventing the further spread of this disease,” according to Duterte.
He urged those who will be vaccinated to continue practicing health and safety protocols as we wait for the final approval of all and more vaccines.
“Remember to wear masks, wash hands and observe social distancing. Your cooperation here is key and will undoubtedly save numerous lives along the way,” he said.
At the same time, Duterte acknowledged the contribution of the medical frontliners in the government’s fight against Covid-19.
“Allow me to take this opportunity to thank you for your valuable and selfless contribution in the fight against Covid-19. We recognize the profound sacrifices you continue to make every single day, even at the cost of being away from your loved ones and risking your precious lives just to take care of the sick,” Duterte said.
“As I have mentioned before, I assure you that the government will always be by your side, ready to help in any way we can,” he said.
“With the entire nation’s support, I am confident that we will claim victory over this pandemic.
Panahon ngayon para mag-bayanihan. Let us all demonstrate unity in our shared task of nation building and healthier society for every Filipino,” Duterte added.
On the other hand, Xilian said that the Philippines could finally control the Covid-19 with the arrival of the Sinovac vaccine in the country.
“As a good friend, neighbor and partner of the Philippines, we sincerely hope that the Philippines could control the pandemic to embrace economic recovery and normal life at the earliest date,” Xilian said.
He assured that China will continue to support the Philippines until it succeeds in its fight against Covid-19.
Hand in hand
“I believe that our friendship and partnership will also continue to grow and prosper as we fight against the pandemic hand in hand!” Xilian added.
He then thanked the teams from both sides who have been working round the clock to ensure the arrival of the 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines.
“They share a same goal to implement important consensus between two heads of the state to ensure the Chinese vaccines benefit the Philippine people in the first place. I hope that the vaccines will help kick off the Philippines’ mass inoculation campaign to curb the pandemic and allow Filipinos to return to normal life at the earliest,” he added.
According to Xilian, China considers the Philippines’ need of Covid-19 vaccines as a priority.
“Despite the increasing domestic need of vaccines, China has decided to donate vaccines to the Philippines and more Chinese vaccines procured by the Philippine government will surely come soon as expected. This once again highlights China’s sense of responsibility, credibility, morality and mission as a major country,” Xilian said.
“It not only shows the solidarity, friendship and partnership between our two countries and peoples, but also signifies the intent of both militaries in jointly fighting Covid-19 and deepening our defense cooperation,” he added.
He noted that Sinovac vaccines have been inoculated in many countries and its safety and efficacy has been well tested.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, he said, has pledged to make any vaccine that China develops a global public good.
“In the face of the vaccine deficit and vaccine nationalism, China, as always, is honoring its commitments in providing assistance and support to other developing countries, and works tirelessly to make vaccines a global public good accessible and affordable to people around the world,” Xilian added.
Xilian said at present, China has rendered vaccine assistance to 53 developing countries and is exporting the serums to 27 countries.
He said China was among the first to contain the virus and restore economic growth, and is embarking on a new journey toward fully building a modern socialist country.
“As a Chinese saying goes, good neighbors are well-wishers for each other. No winter lasts forever, every spring is sure to follow.
I hope that China and the Philippines would beat the virus and resume a prosperous development at an early date. I hope that new progress would be made for the China-Philippines Partnership in the new era,” Xilian said.
After the formal acknowledgements, the vaccines were transferred to a cold storage facility in Marikina City.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the arrival of the more than 600,000 doses of AstraZenica will be delayed by one week as announced by the World Health Organization.
Duque added that he will not be among those vaccinated because of his age.
Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez is scheduled to be vaccinated today with the start of the mass vaccination program.