President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday defended his former economic adviser Michael Yang, who was linked to overpriced medical supplies procured by the Philippine government amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Senators have been questioning Yang’s links to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., a small company that has been the government’s biggest supplier of medical supplies amid the pandemic.

Pharmally was incorporated in 2019 with a capital south of P600,000. The corporation won pandemic contracts amounting to P8.68 billion, including a P3.82 billion contract for personal protective equipment that was flagged by Sen. Risa as overpriced.

The contracts were supposedly overlooked by the Department of Budget and Management, as admitted by Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao.

In defense of Yang, Duterte said his former adviser had been doing business for two decades.

“Michael Yang has been in business here in the Philippines for 20 years. Nag-umpisa ‘yan dito sa Davao…Hindi ‘yan sabihin mo Intsik-Intsik na kinukunan ko ng pera,” he said.

Duterte said senators who questioned Pharmally during a seven-hour Senate hearing—specifically Sen. Richard Gordon—were racists and anti-Chinese.

“Iyan ang problema ninyo e, lalo na si Gordon. He is afflicted with xenophobia. Galit ‘yan sa Intsik. Ewan ko, Amerikano kasi e,” a furious Duterte said.

The president added that Yang had helped him connect with Chinese businessmen.

“Akala ko ba we are inviting investors? That’s why we went to China several times to ask them to help us,” he said. John Ezekiel J. Hirro