The United States can forget about its military assets staying in the Philippines under the Visiting Forces Agreement if it cannot deliver at least 20 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine to the country, President Rodrigo Duterte warned on Saturday.
The President also said, “a lot” of people in the Philippines have been jabbed with the vaccine made by China-owned Sinopharm, but did not offer proof.
He also said China had admitted that COVID-19 started from their country, again without elaborating.
In a briefing with medical experts and his Cabinet, Duterte said that US forces “better get out” if America cannot deliver the required doses of the COVID-19 cure, which would be enough for 10 million Filipinos.
“No vaccine, no stay here,” the President said, warning that he would have the VFA abrogated -- after extending it for another six months last November in the wake of the election of Joe Biden as next US President, replacing Donald Trump.
Duterte also stressed that he placed the responsibility of buying and distributing the COVID-19 vaccine squarely on vaccine “czar” Secretary Carlito Galvez and that other ex-generals like him—Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano— would “face the firing squad.”
Galvez reported that contracts for vaccines produced by US firms Pfizer and Novovax may be signed in January. The earliest Western-produced vaccines would arrive in the Philippines by May 2021, he added.
The sequence of the contracts signed for the vaccine, Galvez said, are with AstraZeneca first, followed by Novovax, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, Gamaleya, and Sinovac.
In the same briefing, the President asked Food and Drug Administration director Eric Domingo to fast-track local approval of vaccines already approved by regulators in other countries.
Domingo said yes to Duterte after the FDA checks the vaccines’ stability and other medical data.
The President also assured Filipinos the government has the money to buy the vaccine and asked the public to wait for the cure.