MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte warned that he would not order another suspension of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States (US) even if the Philippines fails to secure coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines from Pfizer.
Duterte issued the warning in a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and infectious diseases experts at Malacañan Palace on Saturday after the Philippines reportedly failed to secure a deal with Pfizer, a pharmaceutical giant from the US, on the delivery of 10 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine by January next year.
“Ang kanila lang kasi ay iyong Visiting Forces Agreement, matatapos na. Ngayon, 'pag hindi ako pumayag, aalis talaga sila. Kung hindi sila maka-deliver ng maski na lang (They know the Visiting Forces Agreement will already expire. If the termination of the deal takes effect, they must leave the country. If they cannot deliver even with just) a minimum of 20 million vaccines, ah they better get out. No vaccine, no stay here,” Duterte said.
The Philippines formally notified the US about its decision to revoke the VFA on early February this year. The VFA is a military pact inked in 1998 to allow American soldiers who are participating in joint military drills to go to Manila sans passport and visa.
The VFA remains in effect after Duterte ordered on June 1 the suspension of VFA abrogation “in light of political and other developments in the region”.
Duterte said the VFA’s fate now depends on the result of the ongoing negotiation between his administration and Pfizer.
“If you want to help, if America wants to help, you deliver. Stop talking. What we need is the vaccine, not your verbose speeches,” he said.
The Philippines supposedly missed the chance to receive 10 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer due to the alleged failure of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to submit the confidentiality disclosure agreement for the purchase of the vaccines.
Some lawmakers have claimed the country would have secured the Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer as early as January next year had Duque worked on the confidentiality disclosure agreement.
Covid-19 vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., who attended the meeting at Malacañang, said the country is expected to ink the vaccine deal with Pfizer in January next year.
Galvez, who also acts as the National Policy Against Covid-19 chief implementer, told Duterte that the country might be able to secure around 80 million of vaccines from developers in other countries.
“We are already 85 percent of the contract,” he said. “So all in all sir if we will get Novavax, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, J&J, and also Moderna, we might have more or less 80 million doses. And also recently, last -- at the evening of -- at the evening of 24 and also in the morning, the Gamaleya of Russia also negotiated for another 25 million.” (with reports from Lade Kabagani/PNA)