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US vaccine gift prompts Duterte to keep pact

THE PHILIPPINES received on Tuesday about three million doses of the coronavirus vaccine made by America’s Moderna, Inc., part of the donation from the United States government that prompted President Rodrigo R. Duterte to keep a key military pact that he ordered to be terminated last year.

The President, in a Monday late-night public address, said his decision to continue the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement with the US was a “concession” for its donated vaccines.

“Give and take lang tayo,” he said of the relationship between Manila and Washington.

Mr. Duterte, who declared a foreign policy pivot toward China and away from the country’s western allies, last week recalled his decision to abrogate the military pact on the deployment of troops for war games after meeting with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Palace Spokesperson Herminio L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing Tuesday that the latest batch of Moderna vaccines was donated by the US government through a global initiative for equal access.

Last month, the US gave the Philippines more than three million doses of the vaccine made by Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

“I would like to thank President of the US, Biden, the US government, and the people of America for not forgetting us,” Mr. Duterte said.

The US has donated at least 13.2 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to the Philippines

The latest goodwill of the US was announced amid the rising tension in the South China Sea, parts of which are claimed by the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Mr. Roque said the country is set to take delivery of about 22.7 million vaccine doses this month, including the US-donated Moderna doses.

The Palace official said about one million doses of CoronaVaC made by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. are set to arrive this week.

The Philippines has so far received about 33,86 vaccine doses from February to July.

About 21.21 million doses have been given out as of Aug. 2. Of these, 11.84 million were first doses and 9.36 million were second doses.

The government aims to fully vaccinate 15 million Filipinos by the end of August and sustain the average daily vaccination of 600,000 to 700,000, Health Undersecretary Myrna C. Cabotaje told a virtual forum.

The country is currently inoculating health workers, outbound migrant Filipino workers, family members of health workers, seniors, people with comorbidities, essential workers, and indigents.

Ms. Cabotaje said the vaccination of the general public is expected by September or October.

She also said health authorities have yet to create guidelines for the vaccination of people below 18 years old.

Philippine authorities earlier said Metro Manila residents who will be inoculated against the coronavirus during the two-week lockdown on Aug. 6 to 20 would be allowed to leave their homes.

Metro Manila’s risk classification for the coronavirus is back to “high risk” after a spike in infections believed to be triggered by the more contagious Delta coronavirus variant was seen in the region.

The capital region was classified as high risk due to its alarming average daily attack rate (ADAR) of 8.96, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told a televised news briefing.

ADAR , which refers to the number of new infections in an area over a two-week period divided by the population there, is considered high risk if it is seven and above.

The capital region registered the most number of new cases at 2,074 as of Aug. 2, followed by other high-risk regions such as Southern Tagalog, Central Visayas, Central Luzon and Western Visayas, Ms. Vergeire said.

The capital region will be placed under a hard lockdown from August 6 to 20 to contain the spread of the Delta variant first detected in India.

While the Philippines’ risk classification remains at “moderate,” the capital region and nearby provinces “are showing a steep increase, while the rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao are exhibiting slight increase in cases,” she said.

“The impact of the Delta variant is now observed nationally and in select regions and areas,” she said. “Half of the country’s provinces are already showing an increase in cases and/or health care utilization.”

The Department of Health reported 6,879 coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing the total to 1,612,541.

The death toll rose to 28,141 after 48 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 6,337 to 1,521,263, it said in a bulletin. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza