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Duterte warns US: No vaccine, no VFA

DUTERTE (Presidential photo)

 

BY ARGYLL GEDUCOS

 

 

President Duterte warned the United States Saturday that he will proceed with the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) if it fails to produce 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the Philippines.

Duterte made the statement as he met the government’s pandemic task force and other health experts to discuss the new COVID-19 strain from the United Kingdom called B.1.1.7.

During the meeting, Duterte asked the public not to believe in reports that the US initially committed to give the Philippines 10 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech by January, saying the US cannot even distribute them in their country.

He, instead, put the US government on notice that if they fail to provide the Philippines with COVID-19 vaccines, they can say goodbye to the idea of staying in the country.

“Iyong Visiting Forces Agreement, matatapos na. Ngayon kapag hindi ako pumayag aalis talaga sila (The VFA is about to end. Now if I don’t agree with the terms, they will have to get out),” he said.

“Kung hindi sila maka-deliver, maski na a (Now, if they fail to deliver even just a) minimum of 20 million (doses of) vaccines, they better get out. No vaccine, no stay here,” he added.

“They are put on notice that if they cannot produce the vaccine, 20 million (doses) at least, immediately (get out),” Duterte said.

Duterte’s statement came after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Philippine Ambassador to the US Babe Romualdez revealed that it was Health Secretary Francisco Duque III who “dropped the ball” on the Philippines’ chance to acquire 10 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The VFA, signed in 1998 and ratified the following year, allows joint trainings between American and Filipino soldiers in the Philippines and governs the conduct of US troops while they are in the country.

Last February,  Duterte ordered the termination of the VFA after the US revoked the visa of his close ally Sen. Ronald dela Rosa and after the ban on the entry of officials supposedly behind the arrest and detention of Sen. Leila de Lima.

In June, Duterte suspended the termination of the VFA due to “political and other developments in the region.” Last month, the government suspended the abrogation anew but negotiations continue. (Argyll Geducos) 

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