President Rodrigo Duterte will decide on the fate of the two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States (US) with the best interest of the Filipino people in mind, his long-time aide and Senator Christopher Go said.

Duterte to take national interests into account on defense pact with US

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By Prince Golez

President Rodrigo Duterte will decide on the fate of the two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States (US) with the best interest of the Filipino people in mind, his long-time aide and Senator Christopher Go said.

Duterte earlier said the US must pay if it wanted to keep the VFA, a military deal signed in 1998 that allows American forces to train in the country.

“Alam mo, nirerespeto ko po ang…desisyon ng ating Pangulo as the Chief Architect of our foreign policy. Sovereign country naman po tayo and independent country ang Pilipinas,” Go said at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Northeastern Misamis General Hospital in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental.

“At alam ninyo… para sa amin ni Pangulong Duterte, interes po at kapakanan ng bawat Pilipino ang mangunguna parati sa magiging desisyon natin para sa ating bayan,” the lawmaker also said.

Duterte, he added, won’t let Filipinos be taken advantage of.

“At hindi kami papayag na ma-agrabyado po ang Pilipino sa anumang kasunduan. So, interest of the Filipino people, always po ‘yan priority namin ni Pangulong Duterte.”

In February 2020, the President ordered the termination of the VFA but suspended it amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Kahit Sinovac pa ‘yan! Lorenzana: Available brand is ‘best vaccine’ vs COVID-19

MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said the “best vaccine” to contain the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in the country is the vaccine that is now readily available.

Lorenzana was referring to the country’s first 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine donated by China and arrived in the country on board a Chinese military aircraft on Sunday.

“The best vaccine is that vaccine that is here available, kaya nga hindi ko maintindihan itong ating mga detractors nung hindi dumarating yung vaccine ay panay ang batikos sa atin, nung dumating binatikos pa rin na hindi maganda daw yung Sinovac, pero 13 bansa na po yung gumagamit ng Sinovac at wala naman silang reklamo (that is why I don’t understand why our detractors, who are always criticizing us when there is no vaccine yet, are still criticizing us when there is already a vaccine claiming Sinovac is not good but yet 13 countries are already using and they have no complaint so far),” Lorenzana said.

He made the comment as he graced the official kickoff of the immunization campaign for the DND and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel at the Victoriano Luna Medical Center (also known as V. Luna) in Quezon City Monday.

Lorezana said if 13 countries have already been using the Chinese-made Sinovac, it means the CoronaVac is “clinically” tested.

“So let us be very thankful to the Chinese government for donating this vaccine,” he said.

He also visited the vaccination rollout at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center where he wanted to have himself vaccinated but was dissuaded by experts as those below 18 and above 59 years old are not advised to take the vaccine.

“We will follow the advice of our experts na hindi na tayo magpabakuna muna and hintayin natin yung angkop sa ating edad (not to have myself vaccinated for the meantime and wait for vaccine that is more appropriate for my age),” the 72-year-old DND chief said.

Lorenzana said the military front-liners will be prioritized using Sinovac’s vaccines.

The 100,000 of the 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine were donated by the Chinese Ministry of Defense to the DND.

The DND will initially inoculate 14,520 individuals using 29,040 doses. The remaining 70,960 doses will be given to the AFP. (PNA)

Tiis muna sa Sinovac: Galvez says Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to arrive in 2nd quarter of 2021

MANILA – Due to high global demand, National Task Force Against Covid-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. on Monday said 170,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines from the COVAX facility may finally arrive in the country by the second quarter of this year.

The initial batch was supposed to reach the Philippines in mid-February.

“We should not expect that Pfizer ay darating sa lalong madaling panahon dahil sa nakikita natin halos lahat ng bansa ang kinukuha nila ay ‘yung (We should not expect that Pfizer vaccines will arrive as soon as most of the countries have already ordered) Pfizer and Moderna and also AstraZeneca,” Galvez, who is also the country’s vaccine czar, said during a press briefing at the Philippine General Hospital.

He also cited President Rodrigo Duterte’s recommendation to prepare a standby stockpile of at least 2 million doses of China-made CoronaVac to enable the country to lift restrictions imposed since March last year when the pandemic began.

“Once we have that stockpile and we will maintain 2 to 5 million [doses], we can now convince the President to open the economy and also have the face-to-face education,” said Galvez, noting that the President realizes the economic contraction being caused by the health crisis.

“He is also sympathizing with the mayors na sa kanya buhay muna bago ang ekonomiya (because for him, lives must be saved first before the economy),” Galvez added.

The possible lifting of restrictions may happen within the second quarter this year, he said.

Galvez said once the government-procured AstraZeneca and Novavax vaccines, including the 6.5 million doses from the COVAX facility, arrive in May, the country’s stockpile may reach more or less 10 million doses, allowing the economy to gradually open and recover.

Road to normalcy

“Once we are able to gather enough volumes this year, we see that by mid-2022 we may sharply recover,” he said.

The vaccination campaign and ongoing negotiations for the procurement of additional doses will also contribute to the country’s recovery, he added.

The country will receive some 5.1 million doses of CoronaVac within the first quarter, intended for the inoculation of healthcare workers and other essential government front-liners. (PNA)

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