Philippines retained US military deal as ‘concession’ for Covid vaccines – News Vibe24

    Philippines retained US military deal as ‘concession’ for Covid vaccines - Times of India
    MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said U.S. vaccine donations have persuaded him to maintain a military deal between the two longtime allies that is a key part of President Joe Biden’s efforts to tackle the Chinese influence in the region.
    In a statement late Monday, Duterte said he had agreed to extend the Visitors’ Force Agreement with the United States as a “concession” for coronavirus donations, including more than 3 million doses of Moderna Inc expected to arrive on Tuesday.
    “Just give and take,” Duterte said. “I want to thank the President of the United States, Biden, the Government and the people of America for not forgetting us. “Do not forget us, because we have the same view on geopolitics, especially in Southeast Asia.”
    Last year, the Philippine leader sought to end the 23-year military deal amid US criticism of his government’s human rights record, part of a wider effort by Duterte to bring China closer to him during his five years in power. But he delayed formalizing the deal before finally agreeing to hold it during Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin’s visit to Manila last week amid prolonged tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea.
    Southeast Asia is a major battleground as Washington and Beijing seek greater geopolitical influence following the Covid-19 pandemic. The United States has pledged to boost vaccine distribution throughout the region under the so-called Quad group, while Beijing has already delivered about 350 million doses worldwide, including Southeast Asia’s partner countries in President Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative.
    The United States has in recent months increased vaccine donations in Southeast Asia, which relied in part on Chinese vaccines to boost hypotonic vaccines, as the rapidly spreading delta variant records daily outbreaks across the region. The United States wants to “be seen as a credible partner in the fight against Covid,” a senior State Department official said in a separate statement Monday. Without mentioning China, this person said that more than 20 million doses donated by the US to the region came without being committed.
    “We provide them for free and we do not want or expect anything in return,” the official said. “Clearly, this was not the case with the vaccines we saw offered by other countries and we want to make it clear that we do not follow it – we do not follow this playbook.”
    Duterte, in his briefing Monday night, also warned the State Department to be “careful” after Democratic senators urged the Biden government to condemn alleged human rights abuses in the Philippines.

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