Duterte Says China a Benefactor, Denounces ‘Rude’ Remarks

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said China remains a benefactor, as the Southeast Asian nation seeks to increase vaccine delivery from the mainland amid brewing tensions in disputed waters.

“China remains our benefactor,” Duterte said in a taped televised briefing Monday evening. “Just because we have a conflict with China doesn’t mean to say that we have to be rude and disrespectful.”

Duterte made the comment hours after Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, in a Twitter post, lashed at Beijing in an expletive-laced demand for China to remove ships from areas in the disputed South China Sea. Locsin on Tuesday apologized to China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi “for hurting his feelings.”

Tensions between the two nations have risen in recent weeks, with the Philippines repeatedly protesting Chinese ships’ presence, which Beijing has maintained is normal and legitimate. The U.S. has backed the Philippines, saying that China’s “maritime militia” threaten nations.

“The Huangyan Island is China’s territory and its adjacent waters are under China’s jurisdiction,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a statement Tuesday, urging the Philippines to “respect China’s sovereignty and jurisdiction, and stop taking actions that may complicate the situation.”

Wang said conflicts between Beijing and Manila shouldn’t hurt cooperation, adding that China will continue to help the Philippines in combating the pandemic and supporting the economy.

Duterte on Monday asked China to let Filipinos “fish in peace” in the South China Sea and said he never promised to retake disputed areas when he campaigned for president. At a 2016 election debate, Duterte said he would ride a jet ski to the South China Sea to personally stake claims if elected.

Vaccine Supply

Coronavirus vaccine orders from India may be delayed to September from this quarter or be reduced as infections in the South Asian nation surge, Carlito Galvez, the Philippines’ vaccine czar, said in Monday’s briefing. A supply deal for 30 million Novavax Inc.’s shots with the Serum Institute of India is the Philippines’ biggest.

Galvez said the government is negotiating for a monthly delivery of as many as 4 million doses from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and 2 million shots of Russia’s Sputnik V. As many as 4 million doses of both vaccines may arrive this month, as the government aims to inoculate 2 million people in May, Galvez said. For the country to achieve herd immunity, 500,000 people must be vaccinated each day, he said.

While the country’s daily infections fall, use of intensive-care beds remains high, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said. Strong border control and compliance to quarantine protocols are needed to contain spread of more contagious variants, he said.

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