MANILA: The foreign ministers of China and the Philippines on Saturday (Jan 16) committed to prioritising post-pandemic recovery efforts as senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi wrapped up a week-long visit to four Southeast Asian countries.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in March imposed one of the world's longest and strictest lockdowns to contain the virus, grounding to a halt what was one of Asia's fastest growing economies before the pandemic.
"As a friend of the Philippines and your closest neighbour, we will firmly stand with the people of the Philippines until the defeat of this virus," Wang said in his opening remarks at a meeting with Manila's foreign minister.
The two countries should cooperate on the response to the pandemic for mutual benefit, he added.
With nearly 499,000 cases and almost 9,900 deaths, the Philippines has the second-highest COVID-19 infections and casualties in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia. But Manila has trailed regional peers in securing vaccines.
The Philippines' foreign minister, Teodoro Locsin, said close cooperation to beat the pandemic enhanced ties and deepened the friendship between the two nations, adding that collaborative work on economic and infrastructure projects had resumed.
Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has pursued warmer ties with China, setting aside a territorial spat in exchange for pledges of aid, loans and grants.
Manila is buying 25 million doses of Sinovac Biotech's experimental COVID-19 vaccine, with the first 50,000 expected to arrive in February. The firebrand Philippine leader prefers to source its COVID-19 vaccines from either China or Russia.
The Philippines’ foreign ministry said China intends to donate 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines, but did not mention which vaccine.
Officials of the two countries on Saturday signed an agreement for a 500 million yuan (US$77 million) grant from China to fund the Philippines' livelihood, infrastructure and other projects. It was the seventh grant from China to the country since 2016, bringing cumulative grants to 3.25 billion yuan.
Wang, the Chinese government's top diplomat, earlier this week visited Myanmar, Indonesia and Brunei.