President Rodrigo Duterte has warned the United States that he will order the suspension anew of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) if Washington fails to immediately deliver at least 20 million vaccines to the Philippines.
Duterte issued the threat on Saturday night during his meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) in Malacañang after the Philippines reportedly failed to secure a deal with U.S.-based Pfizer on the delivery of 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by January.
“Kung hindi sila maka-deliver ng maski na lang a minimum of 20 million vaccines, they better get out. No vaccine, no stay here,” Duterte said.
The President asked the public not to believe reports that the U.S. committed to give the Philippines 10 million doses of vaccines by next month, claiming the American government cannot even distribute it to their citizens.
“But do not believe in that s**t about America delivering kaagad. Hindi nga niya ma-deliver doon sa kanilang lugar, dito pa. Itong America ano talaga. Don’t be too… I’ve been with the government. I have dealt with them many times,” he said.
The U.S. has begun distributing Pfizer vaccines to its citizens on the priority list: health care workers and high-level government officials, including President-elect Joe Biden.
Duterte also asked Washington to deliver the vaccines instead of “talking” through “verbose speeches.”
“If America wants to help, you deliver. Stop talking. What we need is the vaccine, not your verbose speeches,” he added.
“Loko-loko talaga itong Amerikano. Bigay ka, bigay. Wala na maraming ingay. So, they are put on notice that if you cannot produce the vaccine, 20 million at least, immediately,” he said.
In early February, the Philippines formally notified the U.S. about its decision to revoke the VFA, a military pact inked in 1998 which allows American soldiers participating in joint military drills to go to Manila sans passport and visa.
Duterte scrapped the deal following the cancellation of U.S. visa of his trusted ally and first police chief Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, as well as the criticisms of some American senators against his brutal drug war which killed thousands of suspects.
The VFA was supposed to be abrogated 180 days after the Philippines sent a formal notice of termination to the U.S.
Duterte, however, suspended the pact’s abrogation in June and in November “in light of political and other developments in the region,” leaving the deal in effect until August 2021.
The accord serves as the foundation of military exercises between the two countries such as the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
The MDT states that Manila and Washington would come to each other’s defense in case of an attack by a foreign state, while EDCA allows the US military to maintain barracks and weapons storage structures inside five Philippine military camps.
The VFA’s fate now depends on the result of the ongoing negotiation between Duterte’s administration and Pfizer, following the chief executive’s pronouncement.
The Philippines supposedly missed its chance to secure 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer due to the alleged failure of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to submit a confidentiality disclosure agreement for the purchase of the vaccines. Duque denied the allegation.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has earlier confirmed that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has committed to help the Philippines secure COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer.
Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., who attended the meeting at Malacañang, said the country is expected to ink a deal with Pfizer in January next year. He added that the country may secure around 80 million vaccines from other pharmaceutical companies.
Credit belongs to : www.tribune.net.ph