MANILA (Reuters) – China on Saturday pledged to donate 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines as the two countries sign infrastructure deals to boost post-pandemic recovery efforts, officials said.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed one of the world’s longest and tightest lockdowns to contain the virus in March last year, crippling one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Asia.
“As a friend of the Philippines and your closest neighbor, we will stand firmly by the side of the Filipino people until this virus is defeated,” Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said in a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. foreigners from the Philippines.
Wang’s talks in Manila concluded a week-long visit to four countries in Southeast Asia.
Duterte has sought closer ties with Beijing since coming to power in 2016, setting aside a territorial dispute in exchange for pledges of aid, loans and grants.
“China is playing a very important role in reviving the economy of our region,” he said on Saturday. “Let’s do all we can to revive economic activity between the Philippines and China.”
China has said it will donate 500,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines, without specifying which vaccines will be offered, the presidential palace said in a statement.
With nearly 499,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 9,900 deaths, the Philippines has the region’s second-highest number of infections and deaths after Indonesia, but Manila has fallen behind neighboring countries in securing doses of vaccine.
Duterte has said he prefers to source COVID-19 vaccines from China or Russia, and the country is purchasing 25 million doses of the experimental vaccine developed by Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, with the first 50,000 expected to arrive in February.
Officials from the two countries signed an agreement on Saturday for a 500 million yuan ($ 77 million) grant from China to finance infrastructure, livelihoods and other projects in the Philippines.
They also signed the commercial contract for a $ 940 million, 71-kilometer railway project north of the capital, the Beijing ambassador to Manila said in a statement.
Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Clelia Oziel and Helen Popper