President Rodrigo Duterte condemned wealthy countries at the United Nations (UN) on Wednesday, accusing them of hoarding anti-coronavirus vaccines and depriving poor nations of life-saving jabs.
Duterte made a forceful criticism of the rich-poor vaccine divide during his final attendance in the high-level debate of the 193-member UN general assembly, describing the disparity as “shocking beyond belief”.
“Mr. President, the picture is bleak. There is a man-made drought of vaccines ravaging the poor countries,” he told the international body through a pre-recorded video message.
“Rich countries hoard life-saving vaccines while poor nations wait for trickles. They now talk of booster shots, while developing countries consider half doses just to get by,” the President added.
Duterte then bluntly urged the UN to condemn the vaccination gap.
“The disparity is shocking beyond belief and must be condemned for what it is — a selfish act that can neither be justified rationally nor morally,” he said.
Unless all nations reverse the situation, Duterte predicted that the future would be one of inequality, “for the poor plays catch up with the rich, with no hope nor chance of succeeding in closing the gap.”
“We cannot, in our conscience, allow this to happen. A just order is inherently volatile. We have to reverse course,” he said.
The Philippine leader reminded the world body that the pandemic would not end unless the virus is defeated everywhere, in which vaccination plays a crucial role.
Duterte then urged privileged nations to support the COVAX facility, a global vaccine-sharing pool backed by the UN which aims to make the coveted shots available to poor countries.
The President also noted that the Philippines committed $1 million to the COVAX facility, an initiative which he said was needed to “save more lives, break the cycle of variants, and help ensure global economic recovery.”
Meanwhile, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar lauded the President’s UN speech, saying the call can be achieved “through united action and response to address the Covid-19 pandemic and unequal vaccine access”.
Andanar also said the President had raised other issues like climate change, human rights, rising inequality, geopolitical instability, and all forms of injustices.
This was not the first time that Duterte called for global accessibility of Covid-19 vaccines. During his debut appearance in last year’s UN general assembly, he also stressed that safe and effective jabs should be made available to rich and poor nations alike.
Six months after the Philippines rolled out its Covid-19 inoculation program, only 16.84 percent of its population have been fully vaccinated.
The figure remains far from the government’s target of immunizing 50 to 70 percent of its 110 million citizens by the end of the year to achieve population protection.
So far, the country has received 64.94 million vaccine doses, of which 40.2 million doses were procured by the national government. The rest were donated by the COVAX Facility and other countries such as the United States and China.
The government is expecting the shipment of at least 100 million doses of anti-coronavirus jabs by the end of October, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said.