NEW YORK – At a recent virtual meeting coordinated by Filipino American Voice United and the Federation of Philippine American Chambers of Commerce, Filipino Americans rallied to join forces to help protect their relatives in the homeland from the deadly coronavirus. They urged the US to respond to the Philippine government’s order of Moderna vaccine.
The event, “Call to Action and Unity of Fil-Am Communities: Humanitarian Response to the Philippine COVID Crisis,” Commissioner Herman Martir of the US President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel Romualdez, and Sen. Manuel Pacquiao spoke before the group.
FYLPRO, one of the attendees, was one of the first organizations to respond and appeal to US lawmakers to push the shipment of the Moderna vaccine to the Philippines sooner than July as scheduled. In a statement, the FYLPRO sought to expedite the initial batch release of 3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses purchased and “paid in full by the Philippines.”
The Philippines, like many other countries, has arranged to secure access to various COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by companies across the globe, including an order of 20 million doses from Moderna. FLYPRO noted the current coronavirus emergency that highlights the importance of accelerating the immediate release of a small fraction of the Moderna purchase, which is 3 million doses. However, it also acknowledged the difficulty posed by manufacturers. The National Defense Production Act currently prevents US companies from exporting any product until domestic requirements are met, which according to White House projections, would be around mid-May to June.
The lack of vaccines in the Philippines has placed a big concern on almost 5 million Filipino Americans in the US with deep familial and cultural ties to the Philippines, FYLPRO stressed in its statement. As of this writing, the Philippines has the highest number of active COVID-19 cases of overall reported cases — 926,052 — and deaths at 15,810, an all-time high record in Southeast Asia.
FYLPRO emphasized the “strength of common bonds” between the Philippines and the US. However, despite this long-standing relationship, it noted that the US had shipped to Mexico 2.7 million unused AstraZeneca and 1.5 million doses to Canada in March. On the other hand, four percent of total US nurses are Filipino Americans, 31.5 percent of those nurses have succumbed to COVID-19. These nurses have families and relatives back home that are economically dependent on their remittances and “wait(ing) for life-saving vaccines,” FYLPRO said.
“I am cautiously optimistic that we see the light at the end of the tunnel with COVID-19 in the United States. In contrast, the Philippines is expected to be one of the last to recover from the pandemic in Southeast Asia, suffering one of the worst outbreaks in the region and its economy experiencing its worst drop since the end of World War II,” Louella Cabalona, FYLPRO said. “I urge the Biden-Harris administration to consider the long-standing relationship of the two countries as allies and fast-track the delivery of Moderna vaccines ordered by the Philippines,” says Louella Cabalona, FYLPRO President.”
Meanwhile, Ambassador Romualdez recently reported that he had received confirmation from Moderna “the delivery of the 20 million vaccine doses we secured” will start by the second week of June. “The delivery bumped up exponentially starting in July to September up to the last quarter of this year,” Romualdez said. He added that the USAID acting administrator Dr. Gloria Steele has announced the agency would provide $3.5 million to further support the Philippines in delivering vaccines received from the COVAX Facility.
FYLPRO is also launching an online campaign to encourage its 84 alumni across the US and the entire Filipino American community to call on both the majority and minority leaders on Capitol Hill for a non-partisan appeal to the US Senate and House of Representatives.
“I’m hoping what we endeavor to do moves the needle in expediting the release of the vaccines to the Philippines. Getting shots sooner will save thousands of lives,” Cabalona said.