President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he had reached out to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for vaccines at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Philippines.

In a televised address, Duterte said he had to plead for vaccines at the time because “the Philippines was really at a loss.” He did not specify when exactly he made the call.

“Tumawag ako, sabi ko, ‘Mr. President (Xi), I would like to ask for your help. Until now, the Philippines is really at a loss of how to get the vaccines.’ Sabi niya, ‘It’s okay, we will help you.’ Ganoon lang,” he said.

But even though he made the desperate call, Duterte said Xi did not ask for anything in return.

“Hindi naman niya sinabi, ‘Kalimutan mo ‘yong Scarborough Shoal, bibigyan kita.’ Maniwala… Sinabi lang niya na as simple as that. Sabi ko, ‘Thank you, Mr. President.’ ‘It’s okay.’ Iyon,” he said.

The first batch of Covid-19 vaccines arrived in the Philippines on February 28–500,000 doses of CoronaVac vaccines from China’s Sinovac.

To date, the Philippines has received five million doses of the Chinese vaccine.

Additionally, 10,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines, also from China, had been approved for compassionate use in the country.

More than 2.7 million doses had come from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Sputnik V, which are from the UK, US and Russia, respectively.

Of the country’s total doses, 2.39 million have been administered as of May 8. John Ezekiel J. Hirro