MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday accepted the offer of Russia to supply the Philippines with its coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines once mass production starts.
In a public address in Davao City, Duterte said he is “very happy” by the news that Russia would provide vaccines free of charge.
“Maligayang-maligaya ako kasi ang Russia, kaibigan natin ito. Ang ano nila is magbigay sila ng bakuna. Wala naman silang sinasabi bayaran mo. Ito, tingin ko kay President [Vladimir] Putin, tulong niya sa atin, libre (I am very happy because Russia is our friend. They’re going to give free vaccines. They didn’t say anything about paying for it. I think this is President Putin’s way of helping us, by giving it for free),” he said.
He added that the Philippine government will accept it and talk about how much of a supply the country needs.
Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev on Friday said the country has developed an "effective and safe" vaccine created by the Gameleya National Research Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology.
The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier conveyed its appreciation for Russia’s willingness to assist the Philippines, as well as its offer to supply the vaccine developed by Gamaleya.
The offer has been referred to relevant agencies for proper assessment and evaluation, DFA said.
Duterte volunteered to be the first person to be injected with the Russian vaccine in public.
“Pagdating ng bakuna, in public, para walang satsat diyan magpa-injection ako. Ako yung maunang maeksperimentuhan. Okay para sa akin (When the vaccine arrives i will have the public witness my vaccination so people won’t say anything, I’ll agree to be injected. I’ll be the first to be experimented on. It’s fine with me),” he said.
He said he wanted to show Putin that he has full trust in Russia’s scientific studies and believes that the vaccine produced is “good for humanity.”
“Para ipakita ko sa kanila na tiwala ako at hindi sila nagkamali mag-offer ako pagdating, yung doctor nila o doctor natin, ako ang unang magpabakuna (To show them that I trust them and they didn’t make the mistake of offering us a vaccine, I will be the first to be injected with the vaccine),” he said.
If the vaccine can be administered to him, Duterte said it could most likely be administered to everyone.
“Tingnan natin kung puwede ba. Kung puwede sa akin, puwede sa lahat. Ngayon, kung hindi puwede sa akin, ‘yan nga yung problema (Let’s see if it’s recommended for me. If it’s okay for me, it’s recommended for everybody. Now, if it’s not recommended, that’s the problem),” he said.
He also asked Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to coordinate with the Russian government for the possible transfer of the technology for Covid-19 vaccine to the Philippines.
During one of his state visits to Russia, Duterte said Putin told him that if he had any medical-related concerns, he is free to approach the Russian government.
Duterte visited Russia twice — in 2017 and 2019.
“Sabi niya noon nung nagbisita ako sa kanya, sabi niya (He said during the time I visited him) ‘if you have a question on anything about medicines or cures, feel free to call me and anyone you’d like to be confined and treated here in Russia and we will help you develop the medicines that your country needs’,” he said.
While other nations also offered to provide the Philippines with Covid-19 vaccines, Duterte said there is no certainty if it would be given for free.
He, however, feels Russia would not renege of its promise.
He also vowed to pay his debt of gratitude to Russia and keep their friendly ties.
“Someday we will, makabayad man kami sa utang ng loob sainyo but I promise you that the Philippines and Russia would remain friends forever,” he said.
With a possible Russian vaccine in the works, Duterte expressed hope that the world would be Covid-free by December.
“Maghintay kayo. Actually ang vaccines they are to be distributed worldwide na ‘yan by September, October. Bibitawan na nila dahan-dahan (Just wait. Actually, the vaccines are to be distributed worldwide by September, October. It would be slowly released),” he said.
He admitted that there would still be a need for clinical trials to be completed, but the waiting will be much shorter from now on.
“By December, sabi ko (I said) in the fullness of God’s time, we will have a hopefully a Covid-free December and we can enjoy this Christmas season,” he said.
Earlier, Russia said it aims to launch the mass production of Covid-19 vaccines in September and turn out “several million” doses per month by next year.
Russian scientists said results from clinical trials have been "promising." (PNA)