Magnanimous, charitable but intransigent China

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    ‘… although we needed those vaccines very much, it should not be a reason for China to infringe on our sovereign rights just because they have the vaccines to offer for free.’

    THE Philippines now considers the COVID-19 vaccines of any kind as its lifeline, the lifeboat that will save it from turbulent seas in this period of the journey. Whether through lack of money, lack of foresight or plain stupidity, our officials have clearly been remiss in providing for Filipinos the much-needed vaccines.

    Despite billions of pesos worth of approved and withdrawable loans for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines anywhere in the world, the only vaccines now in the country are those donated by China and the COVAX facility of the World Health Organization (WHO).

    China’s initial 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines which arrived last month enabled the government to start the much-delayed mass vaccination program. Yesterday, a batch of 400,000 doses of this same medicine arrived, pushing the inoculation effort some more.

    This gesture of medical and humanitarian support proves that Chinese President Xi Jinping was sincere when he said that the Chinese vaccines of Sinovac and Sinopharm are considered as “global public good.” This means the whole world will benefit from these products, to be distributed at cost, if not for free, and without any hindrances of geography, race or religion.

    But this show of magnanimity and charity is at once put to question by China’s abetment of the presence of some 200 fishing vessels suspected to be maritime militias right in the area of Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef), a point within the West Philippine Sea and the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

    The Chinese embassy in Manila explained that the vessels are fishing boats that are seeking shelter in the area during rough weather, referring to the place as their very own Niu’e Jiao, a part of Nansha Qundao where their fishermen had allegedly been fishing for decades.

    “There is no Chinese Maritime Militia as alleged. Any speculation in such helps nothing but causes unnecessary irritation. It is hoped that the situation could be handled in an objective and rational manner,” the Chinese Embassy said in a statement.

    The government’s official reply is the filing of a diplomatic protest by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. — his 45th such protest — and presidential spokesman Harry Roque’s statement that this matter can be discussed peacefully among friends.

    Clearly, China is overstepping the friendly relations the Philippines has with this neighbor. And although we needed those vaccines very much, it should not be a reason for China to infringe on our sovereign rights just because they have the vaccines to offer for free. That is not how friends treat each other.