President Rodrigo Duterte's threat against the United States that he would terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) if the latter fails to deliver at least 20 million vaccines in the country might be a bad move, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Monday.
"Treating the Americans like a bunch of yokels might have sealed our fate to settle for China’s Sinovac in lieu of the US-made Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines," Lacson said in a statement.
Last weekend, Duterte said the US should “stop talking” and deliver the vaccines as the Philippines “needed the vaccine [and] not verbose speeches.”
“Ang kanila lang kasi kay, ‘yung Visiting Forces Agreement matatapos na. Ngayon, 'pag hindi ako pumayag, aalis talaga sila. Kung hindi sila maka-deliver ng maski na lang a minimum of mga 20 million vaccines, they better get out,” Duterte said. “No vaccine, no stay here."
The VFA was abrogated by Duterte in February after the US revoked the visa of his ally Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa. The termination process, however, has already been suspended twice this year.
Lacson reiterated that the President could have said it in a more diplomatic way without making it sound like a blackmail.
"What is more unfortunate is that we had a good chance to procure vaccines early from the US, but someone from our side dropped the ball, and has yet to be held accountable up to this day," Lacson added.
Earlier this month, the senator said it was Health Secretary Francisco Duque III who made a mistake and caused a delay in the supposed shipment of Pfizer vaccines in the Philippines by January—an allegation refuted by Duque who said negotiations are ongoing.
Last December 23, Pfizer-BioNTech already submitted an application for the emergency use authorization (EUA) for its COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines. The Food and Drug Administration said the decision on whether or not to grant it may be done in more or less 21 days.
DOST–Philippine Council for Health Research Development executive director Jaime Montoya said the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna could be the first ones to be made available in the country if negotiations prosper.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., meanwhile, has earlier said the Philippines is in talks with China for the first vaccine against COVID-19 that is expected to be administered in the country in March 2021.
While the 50% efficacy rate of China's Sinovac in the late-stage trial in Brazil is raising concerns among some senators, FDA director general Eric Domingo said an official and published scientific report on the vaccine's efficacy has yet to be released. —KG, GMA News