By: Raydes B. Barcia

Legazpi City —The United States government reaffirmed the strong commitment and support for the Philippines’ COVID-19 response to the fight against the global pandemic.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken Secretary led the turnover of U.S. government-donated medical supplies and equipment to support the pandemic response of the Philippine Genome Center and the Bulacan Medical Center, among others.

“As the Philippines continues to work to vaccinate people, to reduce the spread and save lives, my message is simple:  The United States is with you,” Secretary Blinken said during a turnover of medical equipment and supplies in Manila on August 6.

“We will end this pandemic and emerge better prepared for future health crises by working together not only across governments but across private sectors and across civil society.”

Blinken led the handover of U.S. government-donated personal protective equipment, testing kits, laboratory equipment and supplies, and hygiene kits in the presence of U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson, Department of Health Officer-in-Charge Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire, and Manila City Mayor Dr. Honey Lacuna.

The donation is expected to support the efforts of local medical facilities such as the Philippine Genome Center and the Bulacan Medical Center.

Blinken said that the United States has donated more than 33 million safe, effective vaccines to the Philippines and has provided more than $50 million to help train Filipino healthcare workers, boost the vaccine rollout, and support the country’s economic recovery.

On the sidelines of the handover ceremony, Secretary Blinken visited a pediatric vaccination site of the Manila City government at the Manila Zoo and inspected mobile jeepney vaccine clinics supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to encourage children’s vaccination and support the safe reopening of face-to-face classes.

Blinken also met eight civil society organizations with notable initiatives assisting communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group included Love Education Philippines and the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation which have launched projects to increase children’s access to education during the pandemic and the AGREA Foundation whose “Move Food” Initiative has helped more than 28,000 farmers bring their produce to markets across the Philippines.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the United States government, through USAID, has helped train healthcare workers, establish quarantine facilities, enhance contact tracing, bolster laboratory surveillance, improve public health communication, enhance vaccine rollouts, and support economic recovery efforts.

Department of Health Officer-in-Charge Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire expressed gratitude to the U.S. government for helping the country in its response to Covid-19.

“We thank the U.S. government for helping the Philippines respond to COVID-19 and protecting Filipinos with the much-needed vaccines and technical assistance. Your support helped save the lives of many Filipinos,” Vergeire said.

“We cherish this long-standing health partnership, and we hope this level of commitment is sustained beyond the COVID-19 pandemic,” she added.

The United States has been the Philippines’ strongest partner in countering the COVID-19 pandemic, contributing nearly $38 million in pandemic-related assistance and providing more than 32 million vaccines through the COVAX facility (out of more than 69 million total vaccines delivered to the Philippines via COVAX) as of March 2022.

The United States is the largest donor to the COVAX facility, the global mechanism for pooled procurement and distribution of COVID vaccines, and has contributed $4 billion to fund equitable vaccine access globally.

By the end of 2023, COVAX will have provided enough vaccines to fully vaccinate one in every three Filipinos. More information on U.S. COVID-19 assistance to the Philippines, the US Embassy in the Philippines statement said.

The 76-year strong alliance and diplomatic relations of the United States and the Philippines was founded in 1946 and embodied under the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951.

The 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty provides a strong foundation for robust post-World War II security partnership.

For the past 60 years, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has worked with the Philippine government and local organizations to achieve shared development goals, investing more than $5 billion to support the Philippines since 1961. The United States has had a Peace Corps program in the Philippines for over 50 years.

It said that the U.S. government current development priorities in the Philippines include responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, mitigating and adapting to climate change, promoting renewable energy, preventing and mitigating conflict, bolstering economic recovery, advancing democratic values, fighting corruption, and advocating for human rights.

Over the last decade, disaster relief and recovery has also become a vital area of assistance to the Philippines. The U.S. government, through USAID, works year-round to help communities in the Philippines prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

Since 2010, USAID has provided more than $342 million in disaster relief and recovery aid and strengthened the disaster risk reduction capacity of over 100 cities and municipalities in the Philippines.

This includes relief and recovery efforts after Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda devastated the country in 2013 and after Super Typhoon Rai/Odette made landfall in 2021.

The United States continues to support long-term reconstruction and rebuilding efforts and has allocated over $60 million to support ongoing humanitarian assistance and stabilization funding after the siege of Marawi.

The Departments of State, Defense, and USAID also implement programs in conflict-affected areas of Mindanao that aim to create a sustainable foundation for peace and stability in areas at risk from terrorism and violent extremism.

The U.S. assistance seeks to intensify cooperation through a whole-of-government approach that supports a free, open, and resilient Indo-Pacific.

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