MANILA, Philippines — Once again, President Duterte harped on the importance of universal access to COVID-19 vaccines while addressing new ambassadors to the Philippines earlier this week.

The country’s vaccine procurement has suffered some setbacks with, most recently, the arrival of 117,000 initial doses from Pfizer being moved to the third week of this month due to documentary issues.

Upon receiving new Brazilian Ambassador Jo?e Maria de Souza Silva in Malacañang last Wednesday, Duterte underscored the need for countries like the Philippines to have access to the vaccine supply.

Like the Philippines, Brazil has a big population – 212 million – and will need a sufficient supply of vaccines.

“Let us also continue to work together to ensure universal access to the COVID-19 vaccine. This is a principled position which we should continue to push and demand in all available fora,” the President said.

According to John Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, Brazil has recorded 9.765 million COVID-19 cases with 8.69 million people recovered from the disease and 237,849 deaths.

As of yesterday, the Philippines has recorded 547,255 COVID-19 cases, of which 34,967 are active cases, 500,781 are recovered and 11,507 are deaths, according to the Department of Health tally.

Duterte has been pushing for universal access to COVID-19 vaccines since last year when he addressed the United Nations’ General Assembly twice.

Also recently, the President received the credentials of Ambassador-designate of the European Union to the Philippines Luc Veron, Ambassador-designate of Republic of Korea Kim In-Chul, Ambassador-designate of France Michèle Boccoz and Ambassador-designate of Colombia Marcela Ordoñez Fernandez.

In fostering greater cooperation and solidarity with Colombia, Duterte emphasized the need to overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“Together, in solidarity and cooperation, we will continue to build upon the gains of our longstanding friendship. This, as we remain resolved to surmount the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and work together for global bounce back and recovery,” Duterte told Fernandez.

Prior to this, Veron vowed the EU states’ support for the Philippines in various areas, including providing assistance in times of natural emergencies and the more urgent effort to address challenges brought by the COVID-19 crisis.

“Mr. President, for all these reasons, the EU is willing to have a productive political relationship with the Philippine government, notably to support the Philippines in its effort to overcome the COVID-19 crisis and its effort to restart its economy,” Veron said.

“The EU and its member-states will continue their efforts to contribute to the international response to the pandemic, including by guaranteeing affordable and fair access to vaccines for all,” he added.

When it was time to accept the credentials of the Brazilian ambassador, Duterte said: “Brazil is an old friend and partner of the Philippines.”

“With room for growth in our relationship, the horizon is wide as it is bright. Let us work together to intensify bilateral trade and investment exchanges during your tenure, especially in agriculture, biofuels, business process outsourcing and logistics,” he said.

Duterte also thanked the ambassador for the delivery of six new A-29 Super Tucano aircrafts from Brazil last year, which he said signifies the strong partnership of the two countries in terms of defense and security.

He then noted that the Philippines and Brazil mark the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations this year. “As I reaffirm the Philippines’ commitment to expand bilateral relations with Brazil, let us renew the resolve to take our relations to an even [higher] plane,” he said.

“With the deep mutual understanding between our countries, we hope to continue our collaborative work through our shared advocacies for inclusive growth and sustainable development and bilateral consultations,” Duterte said.

For his part, Silva extended the best wishes of the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to the Filipino people.

Silva said he is deeply grateful and honored to be the Brazilian Ambassador to the Philippines because it is his personal wish.

“I am grateful to my president because my coming to the Philippines was a personal wish I had and I was lucky and happy that the wish was granted,” he said.