President Rodrigo Duterte is confident that the Philippines’ ties and vaccine cooperation with China will not be affected by brewing tensions in the Julian Felipe Reef.

In a virtual presser on Tuesday, Harry Roque, Duterte’s spokesman, read the president’s official statement on the West Philippine Sea clash.  

“We will continue to resolve the issues on Julian Felipe through diplomatic channels 

and through peaceful means. Whatever differences we have with China will not define our 

bilateral relations,” Roque said.

“It will not be an obstacle to the overall positive trajectory of our bilateral friendly relations and our deepening cooperation pandemic response, including vaccine cooperation and in post pandemic economic recovery.”

The Philippines has received one million doses of Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines from China. The government plans to purchase 25 million doses of the said Chinese vaccine.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier demanded the departure of Chinese maritime vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef.

Despite the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling invalidating its claims on the West Philippine Sea, China has asserted that the Julian Felipe Reef is part of their Nansha Islands, and has been a “traditional fishing ground for Chinese fishermen for a long time.”

Beijing has claimed that the vessels were only seeking shelter at the reef due to bad weather.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. also said the West Philippine Sea issue would not halt China’s humanitarian efforts in joining the Philippines in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Ang inaano po natin na separate po iyong isyu po na iyan. Ang ano po natin ngayon ay the Chinese government is joining us in fighting against COVID-19. It’s a fight for humanity, saka ang ano po natin diyan is talaga naman itong isyu ng West Philippine Sea ay iba piyan.,” he said. John Ezekiel J. Hirro