Duterte praises China's Xi during coronavirus briefing

MANILA, Philippines – As he was set to address Filipinos amid the growing novel coronavirus crisis in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, March 12, spared some time to praise Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

“You know President Xi Jinping for all of his goodness to us, wrote me a letter and said that he is willing to help. All we have to do is to ask,” Duterte said in a televised briefing as he veered from a prepared speech that included urgent recommendations of the Philippines’ Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases. The task force was created to combat the virulent coronavirus.

After announcing Filipino workers will be allowed to return to mainland China, Duterte also said, “Maybe there will be time if things deteriorate that I have to call on China to help. He said that they have managed the crisis very well in his country and he is very much willing to help kung kailangan (if needed),” he added. 

“So to the Chinese government, the people, especially to President Xi Jinping, thank you for the consoling words and maybe I hope it would not reach to that point, but maybe we will need your help. Salamat po (Thank you),” Duterte said. 

Model example? Since the coronavirus crisis began in January 2020, the Chinese government has been widely criticized both in China and abroad, for its handling of the outbreak.  

The reputation of Xi and other Chinese officials took a hit after reports showed a lack of transparency delayed critical response by health officials to the public health emergency.  

With cases now tapering in China, Xi recently made a visit to Wuhan – ground zero of the outbreak – in a bid to show the disease was “under control.”  

Other measures taken: Duterte’s public address at past 8 pm on Thursday was the first briefing he made since international health officials announced the outbreak had become a pandemic and additional cases of COVID-19 were reported in the Philippines. 

During his address, Duterte announced he would be implementing a lockdown on Metro Manila starting March 15, suspending classes and government work until April 12, and banning non-Filipinos coming directly from countries where there were locally transmitted cases of the coronavirus. 

The Philippines has recorded at least 52 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Thursday, 5 of whom have died.

Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 125,000 people and killed 4,600 across 115 countries. More than 62,000 people have recovered from the virus. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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