Saturday, April 11, 2020

US donates Balikatan beds to Philippines' COVID-19 patients, health workers

From the Philippine Star (Apr 10, 2020): US donates Balikatan beds to Philippines' COVID-19 patients, health workers (Patricia Lourdes Viray)

Armed Forces of the Philippines and US Department of Defense personnel load new cots for delivery to the Philippines Office of Civil Defense.  US Embassy/Released

The United States government donated “nearly 1,300” new folding beds initially intended for its joint military exercise with the Philippines, to form part of the country’s coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) response.

Broken down, the US Embassy said “more than 1,100” cots were donated through the Office of Civil Defense, which was tasked by President Duterte to consolidate donations for COVID-19 contingency programs.

The balance of 150 went to the state-run Philippine General Hospital to be used by healthcare workers. PGH was designated by the health department as a hospital for caring of COVID-19 patients.

“I'm pleased to be able to hand over these new cots, on behalf of the US government, to our Philippine partners. We stand together with the Philippines, as both of our nations work to save lives and protect our people in the fight against COVID-19,” ambassador Sung Kim said in a statement on Friday.

The embassy said Kim turned over the folding beds to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and civil defense administrator Ricardo Jalad.

The latest assistance came on top of $4 million, or nearly P204 million, in health assistance given earlier by the US to address the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, which has so far infected 4,076 people, 203 of whom died as of Thursday afternoon.

The threat of COVID-19 spread halted what could be the Philippines’ last joint military training— known as Balikatan— with the US after President Duterte unilaterally abrogated the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between Manila and Washington last February.

Unless otherwise replaced with another pact or renegotiated, VFA will cease to operate by August when the 180-day period of notification would have expired.

Among its Southeast Asian neighbors, the Philippines received the largest amount of financial assistance from the US in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, data showed.

The US also provided financial assistance to Cambodia worth $2 million, Indonesia ($2.3 million), Laos (nearly $2 million), Myanmar ($3.8 million), Thailand ($1.2 million) and Vietnam (nearly $3 million) to support their fight against the deadly virus.

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