The Communist Party of the Philippines on 9 February assured that the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines will be provided “safe and unimpeded passage” through the guerilla bases and zones of the New People’s Army.

Marco Valbuena, CPP Chief Information Officer, said, “It is a matter of principle for the NPA to respect all humanitarian undertakings that benefit the masses.” The NPA, he said, will ensure that the transportation of the vaccines “will be provided a humanitarian corridor.”

Valbuena added that in rural areas, “The transportation, distribution and inoculation drive should be handled by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Philippine Red Cross and other civilian humanitarian agencies whose personnel are properly trained.”

Using armed personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the vaccination drive, Valbuena said, “will not encourage people to be vaccinated, especially in many areas in the countryside where people are traumatized by military garrisoning of their communities and AFP helicopter gunships firing missiles.”

The Filipino people, he said, are worried that the AFP might use the vaccination drive for the Duterte government’s counterinsurgency operations and demand “surrender before vaccine”.

Philippine revolutionary forces are calling for the free and safe distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. At the same time, they condemn the Duterte government for its “slow, anomalous and corruption-ridden procurement of vaccines.”

In a separate statement, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines chapter in Eastern Visayas said, “After smuggling Chinese vaccines to secretly inoculate his security group, no one believes Duterte has any plan for mass vaccination or he wants to decisively stop the spread of the pandemic in the country… As governments across the world distribute millions of doses for their citizens, Duterte has made sure to save only himself and leave the rest of Filipino people fighting over limited supply.”

In its 2021 national budget, Duterte allotted a measly PhP 1 billion (US$ 20.85 million) for vaccine procurement, the NDFP said. It however allotted at least PhP 85.3 billion (US$ 1.778 billion) for the AFP, ‘intelligence funds’ and its anti-communist campaign. “He cannot fund mass vaccination but will buy more fighter jets, attack helicopters and planes, drones, tanks, 500-pound bombs, artillery weapons and other war toys,” said the NDFP.

A recent survey conducted by the ASEAN Studies Centre revealed that 53.7% of Filipino respondents disapprove of the Duterte government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic – the highest disapproval rating among the ten Southeast Asian countries. The survey was conducted from November 2020 until January 2021 with respondents coming from academia or research, business or finance, government, civil society groups, media, and regional and international organizations.