Zubiri to Duterte: Choose best vaccine, stop geopolitics

By Matthew James B. Santos

Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri (PHOTO: Inquirer.net)

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Sunday pressed on the government to focus more on the welfare of the people and give priority to procuring the best available vaccine against coronavirus, instead of favoring the more expensive China-backed Sinovac brand and resorting to geopolitics.

Zubiri urged the administration to "temporarily stop looking at the geopolitical relationship” with China and the United States, among other allies, following President Rodrigo's threats to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US unless given a guarantee for at least 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

“We have so few resources. Tax collection is down. Not enough cash is circulating. Let us [put our money] to maximum use. We need the most affordable [option] and most importantly, reviewed by science,” the Senator stated.

Zubiri then called on Duterte to reconsider plans on acquiring the aforementioned Chinese-developed COVID-19 vaccine as reports showed its efficacy only stood to 50 percent compared to other pharmaceutical companies, emphasizing that "COVID is not a joke."

“Let us not rely on 50-percent efficacy, for the sake of [the] Filipino people,” he furthered.

Meanwhile, MalacaƱang explained that Duterte's threats to terminate the VFA were to only ensure a guaranteed share of US vaccines, such as Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccines, not asking for free supplies as it also is considered a problem for its availability.

“[W]e will pay for the vaccines. The problem is supply. What the President is saying is at least give us supplies. We are not begging. We have money to pay for vaccines and we will pay,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in a radio interview.

Roque pointed out that the country's private sectors are allocating funds to secure and buy vaccines, and said that the VFA, a 1999 agreement allowing periodic visits of American troops and holding of war games with soldiers in the country, is the United States' national interest while the country's national interest is the vaccine.

“So that’s what the President wanted to say, that he would not allow the Philippines to be treated unfairly by its former colonial master. The relationship should be balanced. No vaccine, no VFA.” he claimed.

Zubiri then uttered he understood Duterte's so-called frustration over the matter, noting that the President's threat is a part of his anger “because other countries have jumped ahead” the Philippines in managing to procure COVID-19 vaccines.

“Nevertheless, we have other alternatives anyway. India has one and it requires two doses for only P366 per person. It’s really cheap but we have other options. Pfizer is one of them but we should look at others,” he cited.

RELATED ARTICLE: Philippine Daily Inquirer


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