AUSTRALIA Ambassador to the Philippines Steven Robinson has assured that Cebu is one of the priority areas in the Philippines for the 500 million Australian dollars (AUD) in aid his country has committed in three years to support access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines for the Pacific and Southeast Asia.
Robinson reiterated the strong diplomatic relationship between Australia and the Philippines, as the two celebrate the 75th anniversary of their bilateral relations this year, citing his nation’s intent to help in the purchase and rollout of the vaccines here.
“The Australian government has committed half a billion dollars to Southeast Asia, a proportion of which is also coming to the Philippines. This is for the purchase of vaccines but also for the provision of technical assistance in the rolling out of vaccines,” Robinson said in an interview on Friday during his two-day visit in Cebu.
He said Cebu is very important in the vaccine distribution, being the second largest city in the Philippines.
Robinson said he is pushing to establish more economic opportunities beneficial for the two countries.
“We have a development assistance program which is worth about AUD82 million (P3.02 billion) every year. Much is focused on the Visayas and Mindanao but because of the pandemic, we decided to reorient that development assistance program to focus on three things: health, prosperity and security in Mindanao, and economic recovery,” he said.
He said they’re focused on the recovery programs so all of their assistance programs are being channeled to consistently help the national government’s objectives.
Robinson said he is set to meet the country’s top officials tasked in the Covid-19 response to talk about Australian assistance.
“It (funds) goes to the provisions of vaccines, which is the critical issue for the Philippines, and the inoculation program. Because the country has such a diverse geographical spread, more than 7,000 islands so you’ve got to move the vaccines to ensure everyone is vaccinated and then there’s an education campaign to try to get people to accept the vaccine,” the Aussie envoy said.