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President Rodrigo Duterte expressed optimism that the Philippines’ first vaccine for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) would come from China.

“Kaya ako, saludo talaga ako sa Chinese (That is why I salute Chinese). Ang unang makuha nga natin siguro from China (Perhaps, the first Covid-19 vaccine we will get is from China),”

Duterte said in a taped public address aired on state-run PTV-4 on Friday morning, as he noted that Covid-19 vaccines produced by Chinese drugmakers Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm are showing promising results.

He said he is confident that a vaccine for Covid-19 would be developed by December this year.

In his fifth State of the Nation Address delivered Monday, Duterte disclosed that he had personally asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to prioritize the Philippines’ request to receive China’s vaccine for Covid-19, once it passes all clinical trials.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Tuesday ensured that the Philippines would be the first nation to get the Covid-19 vaccine, once China becomes successful in developing a vaccine.

Two vaccines against Covid-19 developed by Chinese private pharmaceutical firm Sinovac and state-run Chinese firm Sinopharm have entered Phase 3 trials, the last step before regulatory approval.

‘Disadvantaged’, gov’t troops are priority

Duterte was thankful that the Philippines' “friendly” relationship with China is bearing fruit.

He guaranteed that underprivileged Filipinos would be the first to receive Covid-19 vaccines, once these become available.

“Ang mauna ‘yung walang-wala at saka of course, those in the hospitals, ‘yung mga sick or dying. Ang una talaga ‘yung mga tao sa listahan na tumatanggap ng assistance sa gobyerno (Those who are disadvantaged and in the hospitals, sick, or dying, will be given priority. Those who are also receiving aid from government will be prioritized),” Duterte said.

He said he would also give priority to the police and the military, noting that he needs “a strong backbone.”

The President reiterated that Covid-19 vaccines would be distributed for free, except for rich people and drug personalities.

Military to lead distribution

Duterte said he would tap the military to lead the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

“Sino ang magdala nito? Military. Military lang. Bahala na. I’m asking the armed forces. The implementing arm – military (Who will distribute this? The military. Just the military. Let it be. The implementing arm would be the military),” he said.

Duterte made the pronouncement as he admitted that he could not trust local officials in distributing the vaccines.

“‘Yung (The) overall umbrella to supervise must be the armed forces. This will remove partisan, favoritism, (and) corruption,” he said.

Back to ‘normal’

Duterte said he believes that Filipinos need not experience the “new normal” because, for him, life will return to “normal” by December.

“Ang recovery natin is normal na (Our recovery would be normal),” he said. “We are not going back to a new normal. It’s going to be normal again.”

Duterte also asked the public to just be patient while the country is waiting for the successful development of a Covid-19 vaccine.

“I promise you, by the grace of God, I hope by December we would be back to normal. Huwag ninyo ‘yang new normal, new normal kasi sabi ko nga noon pag-umpisa natin hintayin lang natin ‘yung vaccine (Do not expect anymore the new normal because we’re just waiting for the vaccine),” he said.

As of Thursday, the Philippines has logged 89,374 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 65,064 recoveries and 1,983 fatalities. 

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