Duterte says Russia eyeing COVID-19 vaccine facility in Philippines

Christian Deiparine (Philstar.com) - October 14, 2020 - 10:55pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said Russia wants to put up a pharmaceutical facility in the country for a possible COVID-19 vaccine in an address that largely revolved around other topics such as criminality and his controversial war on drugs. 

In his weekly meeting with the inter-agency task force on COVID-19, Duterte said he had met with Russia's outgoing ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev, where he reiterated his preference for vaccines from Moscow or Beijing, nations which he has pivoted the country to in his four years in office. 

"We had a serious one-on-one talk," he said in mixed English and Filipino, "They want to establish here a pharmaceutical plant and they will also bring in vaccines."

Duterte, however, said he also welcomes companies from the West, contrast to how he has criticized them before for seemingly trying to make a profit by asking for payment in advance. 

The president sought to assure a nation badly hit by the coronavirus that he has secured enough funds for buying vaccine supplies. In the past, he had proposed to sell government assets for the country to purchase a vaccine when it is finally developed, warning that state coffers may soon run dry. 

But apart from prioritizing the poor and the most vulnerable to the virus, Duterte said state forces should also be recipients of the first batch of a possible vaccine delivery which the science and technology department said could happen by April 2021. 

"I want my soldiers and other security forces to be part of the first batch. I need them healthy and free from COVID-19 because they are really vital to the security of the state," he said. 

Duterte also rehashed his willingness to be the first to try possible vaccines from Russia and China to show his confidence to the public, adding that Beijing is a country whose "integrity is fully protected."

The rest of the president's address for the ongoing public health crisis touched on the issue of criminality in the country, which he said is again on the rise with more people allowed to go out. 

He has repeated too his criticism for human rights advocates who had hit his anti-drug war, insisting that his policy on a supposedly health problem —  of "destroying those who would attempt destroy the country" — will remain relentless in the remaining two years of his term. 

Coronavirus cases in the Philippines have reached 346,536 with health officials reporting some 1,910 new cases on Wednesday.

The tally is the highest in Southeast Asia, and has consistently stayed in the world's Top 20 nations with the most number of cases. 

Fatalities have also reached 6,449, with recoveries at 293,860.

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