United States President Donald Trump has offered more aid to the Philippines as it continues to grapple with the spread of the novel coronavirus, the U.S. Embassy in Manila said on Tuesday, April 21.
“President Trump expressed his solidarity and offered additional assistance to the Philippines as it continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” the embassy in a statement.
The announcement comes after Trump reportedly called President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday night, April 19 to discuss how the two countries could collaborate on efforts to contain COVID-19.
“Both leaders agreed to continue working together as long-time allies to defeat the pandemic, save lives, and restore global economic strength,” the embassy added.
Trump also offered his condolences for 11 Filipino soldiers who were recently killed in a clash with the Abu Sayyaf group in Patikul, Sulu, according to the U.S. Embassy.
“The two leaders also discussed how the United States and the Philippines can continue building upon the string and enduring economic, cultural and security ties binding the two nations,” it said.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday, April 20 said the call between the two leaders lasted 18 minutes.
“It was cordial and it was about bilateral collaboration on COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) but beyond that, I have no authority to divulge any further details,” Roque added.
Citing Executive Order No. 2 of the Freedom of Information program, Roque said that diplomatic communication is exempted and that the content of the call cannot be disclosed.
“We have notes and transcripts but even that po hindi pupuwedeng inanunsyo sa publiko (cannot be announced to the public). Humihingi po ako ng inyong pag-iintindi (I am asking for your understanding),” he said.
Despite Duterte’s move to end the 20-year Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the relationship between the two countries continues to be cordial. The Philippine president previously praised Trump and said he deserved to be re-elected this November.
The U.S. has so far committed $4 million in health assistance to the Philippine government and the country’s fight against COVID-19.
According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the additional aid is for supporting the Philippines’ laboratory systems, intensifying case-finding and event-based surveillance, fortifying systems to prevent and control infections, expanding risk communication, and supporting Filipino and international technical experts to enhance response and preparedness.
As of writing, there are a total of 6,599 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, with 437 fatalities and 654 recoveries.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., the number of cases has reached 799,515, with 42,897 deaths and 73,373 recoveries.