By Daniel Llanto

The European Union (EU) which earlier earned President Duterte’s ire for clamping down on Covid vaccines prioritized for its member countries, changed tack, and vowed to provide the Philippines access to vaccines developed by AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson.

EU Ambassador Luc Véron said EU is eager to enable the Philippines to procure vaccines as part of effective implementation of its Partnership and Cooperation agreement with the country.

“The EU and its member states will continue their efforts to contribute to the international response to the pandemic, including guaranteeing affordable and fair access to vaccines for all,” Véron said following the presentation of his credentials to Duterte on February 10.

“For all these reasons, the EU is willing to have a productive political relationship with the Philippine government, notably to support the Philippines in its efforts to overcome the COVID-19 crisis and its efforts to restart its economy,” he added.

With Veron in the meeting with Duterte was British Ambassador Daniel Pruce who said UK is also committed to help the Philippines access a vaccine, developed under transparent mechanisms, and delivered safely and effectively.

“It’s entirely fitting that our countries are working closely together through these issues, in addressing the pandemic effectively,” Pruce said.

The UK-Philippines Vaccine Clinic, a series of sharing lessons learned across borders and supporting equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines was launched on February 10.

“The Philippines is one of 18 countries to receive the first batch of vaccine donations from COVAX. We thank the British government for its support in our vaccination program, helping vaccinate eight to nine million Filipinos in the first half of 2021,” said vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr.

President Duterte earlier accused the EU of holding up supplies of COVID-19 vaccines to other countries.

EU assured the Philippines of “fair access” to affordable COVID-19 vaccines.  Veron noted that EU has a strategic interest in a stable, prosperous, and secure Philippines. This could be achieved by furthering trade and investment, promoting maritime security, and maintaining open and safe shipping routes.

Since 2014, the EU has been providing the Philippines with preferential trade access to the EU market, based on sustainable development principles, good governance, and human rights.  EU previously expressed concern on the human rights situation in the Philippines.