President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Presidential Guest House in Panacan, Davao City on August 10 , 2020. I Joey Dalumpines, Presidential Photo

President Rodrigo Duterte on August 10 accepted the offer of Russia to supply the Philippines with its Covid-19 vaccine once mass production is able to begin.

In a public address to the nation which was held in Davao City, President Duterte exclaimed that he is “very happy” with news of Russia offering to provide their 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.

The President noted that the Philippine government will accept this offer and discuss how much supply will be required by the country.

Last Friday, July 31, Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev said that Russia has developed an “effective and safe” vaccine created by the Gameleya National Research Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also showed its appreciation for Russia’s willingness to assist the Philippines, as well as its offer to supply the vaccine developed by the Gameleya National Research Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology.

As per the DFA, the offer from Russia has been referred to relevant agencies for proper assessment and evaluation.

Joey Dalumpines, Presidential Photo

First Volunteer

President Duterte volunteered to be the first person to be injected with the Russian vaccine which he will do in public, saying that “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 complete 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, President Duterte said in all likelihood it would be safe to 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 medical technology for the COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines.

Solidified Foreign Relations

During one of his state visits to Russia, President Duterte said President Putin told him that if he had any medical-related concerns, he is free to approach the Russian government. The President visited Russia back in 2017 and also just last year in 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, the President said there is no certainty if it would be provided to the country free of charge—noting that he believes Russia would not go back on their promise to provide the Philippines with it for free.

Further, the President vowed to pay his debt of gratitude to Russia and maintain 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.

COVID-free Christmas

With a possible Russian vaccine in the pipeline, Duterte expressed optimism 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 deliver “several million” doses per month by 2021.

Russian scientists said results from clinical trials have been “promising.”

Balikbayan Media Center
Balikbayan Media Center

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