President Duterte has accepted Russia’s offer to supply the Philippines with its COVID-19 vaccines, assuring the public that he will be the first to take a shot to show his gratitude to Russia and to see if these are safe or not. Duterte made the statement after Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev told reporters in a virtual press briefing that the results of Russia’s vaccine trials are turning out to be “very promising.” Khovaev had said that proposals for the clinical trials and the production of the vaccine in the Philippines were already with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) In his Monday public address, Duterte said he was over the moon with Russia’s gesture toward the Philippines, saying this proved that the two countries are very good friends. “Nagpapasalamat ho ako sa inyo sa mabuting loob ninyo sa Filipino. Someday, we will, makabayad man lang kami sa utang na loob sa inyo (I thank you for your kindness toward Filipinos. Someday, we will repay you),” he said Monday evening. “I promise you that the Philippines and Russia will remain friends forever,” he added. To show his gratitude to Russia, President Duterte said he would be the first to take a vaccine shot to show that he trusts their studies and to make sure that it is safe for Filipinos. “Ako, pagdating ng bakuna, in public, para walang satsat diyan. In public, magpa-injection ako. Ako yung unang ma-experimentuhan, okay sa akin (When the vaccine arrives, I will take it in public. Experiment on me first, that’s fine with me),” he said. “Sabihin ko rin kay President Putin na malaki ang tiwala ko sa (I will tell President Putin that I have faith in)… your studies in combating COVID and I believe that the vaccine you have produced is really good for humanity,” he added. “Pagdating yung doctor nila o doctor natin, ako ang unang magpabakuna. Tignan natin kung pwede ba. Kung pwede sa akin, pwede sa lahat (When their doctors arrive, or our doctors, I will be the first in line. Let’s see if it works. If it will work for me, then it will work for everybody),” he continued. Duterte likewise expressed readiness to assist Russia in the clinical trials in the Philippines and the local production of the vaccines and ordered Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to appoint the best person to deal with Russia. “Maghanap tayo ng Russian partner dito, papiliin sila natin ng tao (Let’s look for a Russian partner here and let them pick their own people) so that they can work expeditiously. Maganda ang takbo ng kanilang tao (So they can work properly). We are extremely grateful,” he said. “I am asking the Secretary of Health to look for the best guy to be dealing with Russia in this area – the transfer of technology of the vaccine,” he added. COVID-free Christmas With Russia’s offer of free vaccines, President Duterte said that the chance of having COVID-free Christmas is now higher. “Hintay na lang kayo, kaunti na lang talaga (Just wait. It’s only a matter of time),” Duterte told the public. “By December, sabi ko (I said), in the fullness of God’s time, we will have a, hopefully, a COVID-free December and we can enjoy this Christmas season,” he added. Duterte said that COVID-19 vaccines will slowly be rolled out by September or October. However, these would still have to undergo clinical trials. “Dumaan na sa kanila ‘yang ano (These have already undergone)… the measures that would ensure that it is really safe. Tapos na ‘yan (It’s all done),” he said. “Kaya lang (However), whether or not it is safe for a particular race, hindi natin malaman (we will not know) unless we go into clinical trials,” he added. President Duterte shared that President Putin once promised him when they last met in Sochi that Russia will assist the Philippines in any medical endeavor.