What is Duterte’s deal with Russian and Chinese vaccine-makers?

Marco Valbuena | Chief Information Officer | Communist Party of the Philippines
September 15, 2020

Last night, Duterte disparaged Western pharmaceutical companies saying they are driven by “profit profit profit” as he continued his push for the purchase of Russian and Chinese Covid-19 vaccines. Addressing the Western companies, he promised to “kick your ass” and called on them to “Go back to your country.”

Duterte clearly revealed his bias when he selectively condemned Western companies, when in fact Chinese and Russian capitalist pharmaceutical companies are no different terms of their drive for profit. The Russian company Gamaleya, in fact, has been criticized for cutting corners and foregoing important clinical trials, in their unholy rush to capture the market and make billions of dollars in profit.

So it raises the question, what kind of deal has Duterte struck that he is now using his powers to push his preference for the country to buy future Covid-19 vaccines from China and Russia; and, this early, shutting the doors to possibly better deals with other vaccine vendors?

Duterte’s now declared preference to buy vaccines from China and Russia, accompanied by his effusive expressions of praise and gratitude to both Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, contradicts his earlier declaration that the Philippines will buy the cheapest Covid-19 vaccine. He is conditioning the minds of the Filipino people in what will likely be another questionable government deal involving billions of dollars.

He also makes a pitch for Chinese companies claiming that unlike Western companies, they do not demand advanced payments. The Department of Health, however, denied knowledge of such demands. What Duterte does not mention is how the Chinese government is taking advantage of the desperation of hard-up countries to strike high-interest debt contracts, accompanied by deals to buy vaccines from China such as what has been exposed in Brazil and other countries in the Carribbean. Like other Chinese loans, these are negotiated secretly by companies and state officials and are a known source of anomalies and corruption.

Bribe-paying and other forms of corruption have long accompanied the operations of monopoly capitalist companies, whether Western or Asian. This is among the arsenal of monopoly capitalists in their overseas operations to capture markets and sources of raw material. They differ only in terms of discretion or
brazenness.

Russian and Chinese companies and state officials have been known to engage in high-level corruption, paying bribes and kickbacks, and giving personal favors to win contracts with government officials and capture markets and sources of raw material.

Filipinos know this only too well with the infamous national broadband network deal with China’s ZTE which involved the payment of large amounts of bribe money to former president Gloria Arroyo and her key economic officials. The recent franchise to operate the so-called “third telco” in the country was won by the Chinese Telco and Duterte’s crony Dennis Uy under questionable circumstances and could not have been consummated without the kickbacks and bribes.

Across the world, China and Russia are perceived to be the most active bribe payers and have been denounced for using corruption as a geopolitical weapon. It involves commercial contracts as well as loans and grants for infrastructure. The rise of state monopoly capitalism and widespread corruption in China and Russia is one of the hallmarks of the restoration of capitalism in both countries.

The Filipino people must be vigilant and expose the corruption behind Duterte’s dealings with China as well as Russia. The corruption-laden deals and contracts that are struck on the pretext of responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, including the recent purchases of overpriced protective and medical equipment from Chinese companies, are the most despicable. These must be fully exposed and denounced.

At the same time, the people must denounce the Duterte regime for perpetuating the country’s reliance on imported manufactures and its failure to support the development of the local pharmaceutical industry and production of medical equipment, especially those urgently needed to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.