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FIRING LINE: Taking it from China

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Here’s a question.

For an administration that has, thus far, filed 60 diplomatic protests against Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea, how comfortable is it with the idea of inoculating our soldiers – the very defenders of our challenged sovereignty in the Spratlys – with COVID-19 vaccines donated by China?

The answer to that, if our big man in Malacañang is asked, would most likely be super-duper comfortable. Last week, his “bestie” Sen. Bong Go said the President wants our soldiers and police first in line for inoculation with the vaccines pledged by China to the Philippines. Go said the grant was at least 500,000 jabs of Sinovac’s CoronaVac.

Later, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. confirmed that 100,000 of 600,000 doses of the donated Sinovac jabs are already allocated to the Department of National Defense.

In a more recent statement, National Task Force Against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon confirmed that the shipment of China’s donated vaccines from Sinovac is arriving on Feb. 23, perhaps arriving ahead of our initial order of 117,000 jabs from Pfizer, which was supposed to have arrived yesterday (Feb. 15), if not set back by “documentary issues”.

Speaking of documentary issues, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director-General Eric Domingo has taken care of a thorny issue with China-made vaccines and the Presidential Security Group (PSG). Last Feb. 10, the FDA granted the PSG Station Hospital’s request for a compassionate special permit or CSP to use Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine on PSG members. That pretty much erases the “unauthorized” tag on the vaccine secretly making its way to the country and into the bloodstream of our President’s close-in security detail last year.

Should I mention that all these developed while our highly-esteemed Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. was firmly telling China that “there will be more than just a protest” if its new law authorizing the Chinese Coast Guard to take action against what it perceives as foreign organizations or individuals “infringing” on its claimed areas leads to an incident at sea? Or that, at the same time, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejano ordered the Philippine Navy to deploy more ships to the West Philippine Sea to ensure that China’s coastguardsmen won’t harass our fishermen?

Meanwhile, our Chief Executive was making it known in Malacañang and before the nation that he prefers to be inoculated with the Chinese-brand vaccines – either Sinopharm or Sinovac. Of course, don’t demand a public viewing of that because Duterte wants to be injected in the buttocks.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we have a President who tries to boost our confidence to take China’s jabs. While the vaccines are given free, we have to fight for our territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at https://thephilbiznews.com

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