Philippines Likens Biden to Roosevelt, Says U.S. Won on Vaccines

The Philippines’ top diplomat compared Joe Biden to the president that led America through World War II, saying the U.S.’s success in vaccinating the public showed democracies were superior to autocracies.

In remarks Wednesday to a meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin hailed the Biden administration for distributing cash and doses to lower-income countries through the World Health Organization-backed Covax initiative while also supporting a proposal to waive intellectual property protections on vaccines.

Citing that almost half of America’s more than 330 million population has been fully vaccinated, Locsin declared that “free for all democracy works.”

“That’s the end of the autocratic argument,” he said. “Autocracies, elected or imposed, are falling all over the place.”

The remarks come at a time when the Philippines is battling one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia, with nearly 1.5 million cases and more than 26,000 deaths. The Philippines is expecting 3.2 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine this month donated by the U.S. through Covax, the Southeast Asian nation’s vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said Monday.

“President Joseph Biden, in the manner of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, announced that the U.S. will be an ‘arsenal for vaccines for the rest of the world’ — which is to say, it will be the arsenal of humanity against its extinction,” Locsin said, according to an official transcript.

While Locsin and other Philippine politicians are known for speaking freely, the pro-U.S. remarks stand in contrast to the China-friendly stance taken by President Rodrigo Duterte. The Philippine leader in May said, “China remains our benefactor” and called on his colleagues to avoid “rude” remarks after Locsin unleashed an expletive-laced demand for China to remove ships from disputed areas of the South China Sea.

Biden has previously announced his administration would donate tens of millions of doses abroad though the target date has since been delayed. In total, three-quarters of the 80 million shots will be sent through Covax. China has donated a million Sinovac vaccines to the Philippines, while 12 million more inoculations bought by the government have been shipped so far.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian pushed back against Locsin’s remarks on Wednesday, saying that democracy “isn’t patented by some countries” and “should not only be defined by Western ideology and values.” He said systems of government should be judged according to “whether the people in the country are satistfied” while questioning the performance of Western democracies against the pandemic and blasting the U.S. for “severe racial discrimination.”

“If this is the benefit of so-called democratic countries, then as a Chinese person, I do not think there is anything to envy,” Zhao said at a regular briefing in Beijing.

According to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker, China has administered almost 1.4 billion shots, or enough for nearly 50% of its citizens.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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