Pandemic dominates Freedom Day greetings

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    ‘In the 38-minute call, President Duterte stressed the need for cooperation in research trials for COVID-19 vaccine and treatments.’

    ONE good thing about celebrating the nation’s Independence Day is that President Duterte, as head of state, gets to be congratulated by top leaders of the world.

    This 122nd anniversary, Duterte received goodwill messages from the country’s important allies, including the US (Secretary Michael Pompeo and Ambassador Sung Kim) and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Other well-wishers were Japan Emperor and Abu Dhabi President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

    Secretary Pompeo touted PH-US relations, saying their “alliance is fortified by our shared history, rich people-to-people ties, and deep bilateral cooperation. As we stood together during World War II and in the global fight against terrorism, our nations are partnering again to contain and mitigate COVID-19.”

    The worldwide pandemic (7.41 million cases and 418,000 deaths by latest count) was also the overarching topic of President Xi’s telephone call to Duterte, which Malacañang described as “productive, open, and focused.” Xi’s call was also to greet Duterte on the 45th anniversary of PH-China ties.

    In the 38-minute call, President Duterte stressed the need for cooperation in research trials for COVID-19 vaccine and treatments. While noting China’s vaccine development program (the US also has several initiatives along this line), Duterte emphasized the imperative of making vaccines accessible and affordable to all countries, including the Philippines.

    As of June 13, the Philippines has 25,392 cases of the SARS coronavirus 2019 that causes the disease COVID-19, with 5,706 recoveries and 1,074 deaths.

    For his part, President Xi reiterated his country’s commitment to the international community to make any vaccine it develops a global public good and that as a friendly neighbor, China certainly considers the Philippines as a priority.

    Xi acknowledged the Philippines’ goodwill donation to Wuhan when the outbreak occurred, while Duterte thanked him for all the support China has been giving the country in fighting the pandemic, such as medical supplies and equipment, promoting the free flow of goods, and completing infrastructure projects.

    Meanwhile, the US has also ramped up its assistance to the Philippines, the latest being the additional P201 million ($4 million) to support vulnerable populations in Mindanao in the fight against the epidemic. US Defense Secretary Mark Esper also assured Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana of the country’s access to whatever COVID-19 vaccines could be developed by the US.

    As the pandemic continues rearing its ugly head over all nations, devastating their economies and decimating their populations, it warms the heart to know that the nation has a surfeit of friends that can be relied upon for assistance in this recovery, which is expected to be uphill.