Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Representative Rufus Rodriguez asked if the government traded the country’s marine resources in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) for COVID-19 vaccines after hundreds of Chinese militia vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) were spotted in the disputed territory.
Rodriguez said the Chinese vessels were discovered eight days after China’s Sinovac vaccines arrived in the Philippines.
600,0000 Sinovac vaccines arrived in the country last February 28. The Chinese militia vessels, meanwhile, were spotted on March 7.
“Did we barter marine resources in WPS (West Philippine Sea) for vaccine? This is the question many Filipinos are asking in the wake of the newest Chinese intrusion in the West Philippine Sea,” Rodriguez said.
“This sequence of events makes many of us wonder if there is a connection between the vaccine donation and China’s latest incursion in the West Philippine Sea, if we did not exchange marine resources for vaccine,” he added.
Solon asks if PH bartered marine resources in WPS for Chinese vaccines
The solon said the Philippines is grateful to China for vaccine donations. However, he noted that the latter’s “newest intrusion” in the Philippine exclusive economic zone should be condemned.
He said, “the donation should not give China the reason to enter our territory and violate territorial integrity.”
Rodriguez is not convinced with the statement of China, saying that the militia vessels were only “seeking shelter” near the reef, which they claimed is part of China’s Nansha Islands or Spratlys in WPS.
“If that were the case, they should have left the area, because it has been more than two weeks since they were discovered,” he said. “What are their intentions there?”
Meanwhile, an official from the United States government said it stood with the Philippines regarding its protest against China’s ‘maritime militia’ vessels staying near Whitsun Reef in the WPS.
“The U.S. stands with our ally, the Philippines, regarding concerns about the gathering of PRC maritime militia vessels near Whitsun Reef. We call on Beijing to stop using its maritime militia to intimidate and provoke others, which undermines peace and security,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.