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Duterte says he asked Xi Jinping to allow Philippines to be ‘one of the first’ to access COVID-19 vaccine

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow the Philippines to be one of the first to access a COVID-19 vaccine China may produce.

"Let me just mention it in passing that about four days ago, I made a plea to President Xi Jinping that if they have the vaccine, can they allow us to be one of the first, or if it's needed, if we have to buy it, that we will be granted credit so that we can normalize as fast as possible," he said in his fifth State of the Nation Address.

Duterte said this as he was discussing education during the pandemic. Malacañang last week said limited face-to-face classes will be allowed starting January 2021 under certain conditions imposed by the government.

"Two weeks ago I seem to have said I would allow the face to face classes to resume, but we were talking actually of January because my thinking is that by September we would have the vaccine," the President said.

"How to get it from the producers or from other governments is really something we have to deal with because... it’s a global need and everyone will go for it," he added.

Earlier this month, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the government has started coordinating with various international partners to ensure for Filipinos the availability of a potential vaccine against COVID-19.

The DFA said it has initiated coordination and information exchange with different jurisdictions across the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Africa and Middle East on COVID-19 vaccine developments.

Philippine health authorities have recorded a total of 82,040 COVID-19 cases in the country as of Monday afternoon. More than 50,000 of these are active cases. More than 26,000 patients have recovered and 1,945 have died. — RSJ, GMA News