On Mar. 7, around 220 Chinese vessels were spotted in the West Philippine Sea. The vessels, according to Inquirer.net, “were believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel,” spurring a diplomatic protest to back away from the disputed sea. In case you’ve been living under a rock this past decade, China has been using their “mythical nine-dash like” to claim the body of water.
“We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory,” said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Mar. 21.
Meanwhile, earlier today the country received 400,000 doses of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac, adding to the initial 600,000 doses received on Feb. 28.
If the timing of the doses seems sus to you, you’re not the only one. Retired senior associate Justice Antonio Carpio remarked that the new doses could be little more than a PR stunt. “It is possible that China is encroaching on our maritime zones but softening it by sending us vaccines, by donating to us vaccines,” he said. “It’s part of their PR (public relations) effort to soften the blow. We should not fall for that.”
Sure, it’s possible that it’s only coincidental—though I don’t know why the doses would be sent out now, when we still have a million more doses coming on Mar. 29. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be critical of this move.
The idea of a country using a vaccine to make another country so indebted that they’ll shut up is honestly just really fucked up. But it’s also not that preposterous.
I won’t be the first person to point out that the rollout of the vaccine has been suspicious. I do *not* want this to mean that the vaccine itself is shady, and that you shouldn’t avail of it. If you get the opportunity to get the CoronaVac vaccine, go get vaccinated! It’s of utmost importance for us to get herd immunity as soon as possible.
That being said, let’s not forget Health Secretary Francisco Duque completely dropping the ball when it came to other vaccines, and that the negotiations for Sinovac were made before it had even received FDA approvals from other countries.
So seeing a sudden new supply of the vaccine being sent out now, right in the middle of a diplomatic scandal involving our two countries and our fight for the West Philippine Sea, is a little worrying. I want to be vaccinated, but I don’t want it to come at the cost of giving up our sea. The pandemic is already hard enough on the average Filipino, we don’t need that hanging over our heads.
It might be too early to say anything definitive yet. Still, let’s remain critical, and let’s not let any country try to leverage the use of a much-needed vaccine for something at our expense. We deserve better than that.