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Duterte hits rich nations for ‘hoarding’ vaccines

REUTERS

PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo R. Duterte has criticized wealthy nations for hoarding coronavirus vaccines, while poor countries struggle to secure shots for their people.

“Rich countries hoard life-saving vaccines while poor nations wait for trickles,” the tough-talking leader said in a taped speech to the 193-member United Nations General Assembly.

Vaccine inequity is a “man-made drought” ravaging poor countries, Mr. Duterte said. “The picture is bleak.”

He described vaccine hoarding as a shockingly “selfish act” that should be condemned.

The country has received almost 65 million doses of coronavirus vaccines. About 18.82 million Filipinos or 24% of its adult population had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as of Sept. 20.

The President also railed against rich countries for talking about booster shots “while developing countries consider half doses just to get by.”

The Philippine Health department earlier said its proposed P104-billion budget for booster shots had been cut to P45 billion.

The World Health Organization has been urging advanced countries to suspend a plan to give out booster shots until at least the end of the year to ensure supplies for poor countries.

Mr. Duterte earlier accused the European Union of holding up vaccine supplies from other countries, citing the economic bloc’s export rule that requires drugmakers to obtain permission first before shipping out coronavirus vaccines.

The President urged the country’s “privileged partners” to fully support a global initiative for equal vaccine access.

“We need this to save more lives, break the cycle of variants and help ensure global economic recovery,” he said.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 15,592 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 2.42 million.

The death toll rose to 37,228 after 154 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 24,059 to 2.22 million, it said in a bulletin.

There were 162,580 active cases, 92% of which were mild, 3% did not show symptoms, 1.5% were severe, 2.81% were moderate and 0.7% were critical.

The death rate has fallen to 1.47% this year from 2.47% last year despite a fourfold increase in infections. Coronavirus infections reached 1.9 million from Jan. 1 to Sept. 1 from 472,205 at the end of last year.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire traced the fall in the death rate to the country’s improved health system and increased protection from the virus through vaccines. Metro Manila had the highest number of cases and the lowest death rate this year at 1%, DoH said.

Meanwhile, Metro Manila’s coronavirus reproduction rate fell to 1.03 on Tuesday from 1.11 a week earlier, the OCTA Research Group from the University of the Philippines Diliman said.

“The decrease in new cases in the National Capital Region continues,” OCTA fellow Fredegusto P. David tweeted.

The capital region had a daily average of 4,784 cases from Sept. 15 to 21, or an 18% decline, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Duterte urged rich nations to do their part in fighting climate change, which has “exposed the varying vulnerabilities of countries around the globe.”

“Developed countries must fulfill their longstanding commitment to climate financing, technology transfer and capacity-building in the developing world,” he said. “This a moral obligation that cannot be avoided.”

The global shift to a green economy should not be at the expense of developing countries’ economic vitality, he said. “It simply cannot be or it will be another travesty of justice.”

Mr. Duterte said the Philippines had submitted a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030.

He added that he had issued a moratorium on the construction of new coal power plants and an order to explore the nuclear energy option.

“The Philippines accepts its share of responsibility and will do its part to avert this collective disaster,” he said.

Mr. Duterte earlier issued an order that lifted his predecessor’s nine-year moratorium on new mineral agreements. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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