Phl to receive 7M doses of Covid-19 vaccines from US

The Philippines is set to receive seven million doses of anti-coronavirus jabs from the United States (U.S.) as part of its global initiative to export 80 million Covid-19 vaccines to other countries by the end of the month.

This was confirmed by U.S. Charge d’affaires John Law on Friday who announced the inclusion of the Philippines in the initial batch of 25 million vaccine doses.

“The initial tranche of at least 25 million doses, the Philippines will be included. And I think that as we continue to see vaccine production increase in the months to come, that we’ll be going to see in every increasing stronger momentum of vaccine delivery from the US to countries all around the world, and certainly the Philippines is going to be an important part of that,” Law said during the virtual briefing marking the 75th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The White House earlier announced it will channel the majority of the initial batch of vaccines to the World Health Organization (WHO)-led COVAX facility for equitable distribution.

A total of 19 million will go to COVAX while the remaining seven million will be allocated to South and Southeast Asian nations including Philippines, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan and the Pacific Islands.

Law did not disclose specific dates but he assured the donation will arrive in the Philippines in a “very near future” with additional Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines coming from COVAX.

“The President has made it very clear that before the end of this month, the US is gonna be distributing 80 million doses of vaccines,” he said.

“I wouldn’t want to get ahead of the White House on specific numbers or dates but I’m very optimistic that it’s going to be very very soon, not only with this initial tranche but also as vaccine production in the US continues to expand and the President’s been very clear on the us commitment to help countries throughout the world,” he added.

The donated vaccines will include 60 million AstraZeneca vaccines that have not received emergency approval in the US, as well as 20 million more doses of Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines from the countries’ stockpile.

VFA ‘improved’ says Romualdez

During the same briefing, Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez said the decades-old Visiting Armed Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and U.S. has been revised and forwarded to President Rodrigo Duterte for approval.

“A lot of time has been spent by both countries to discuss some of the things that they wanted to improve in that agreement. We’re very confident that it will pull through,” Romualdez told reporters.

“It’s now in the office of the President and I expect it to come out any time now and we’re very hopeful that the VFA will continue because it’s an important piece of agreement that again, is part of a bigger picture of our relationship and the Mutual Defense Treaty,” he added.

The envoy did not specify what revisions were made but said the terms now agreed were “acceptable” and “mutually beneficial”.

The VFA has been in a limbo for over a year now after Duterte ordered its termination in response to the US visa cancellation of his ally Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, who led his notorious war on drugs. The withdrawal period has been twice extended to create what Philippine officials have said is a window for better terms to be agreed on

Signed in 1998 and ratified a year later, 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.

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