THE PHILIPPINES and China along with other Belt and Road Initiative partners are fast-tracking cooperation to improve their health sectors amid a global coronavirus pandemic, Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian said.

The Chinese government also assured Manila it would be prioritized once Beijing finds a vaccine for the coronavirus disease 2019.

“Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, China, the Philippines and other Belt and Road Initiative partners are committed to building a Health Silk Road and a community of common health for mankind,” Mr. Huang said in an article published in the Global Times on Monday.

He also said the Philippines and China were negotiating two-way essential travel and a “green channel” to ensure that supply chains are not disrupted during the crisis.

Mr. Huang said bilateral trade between the two states have reached $19.37 billion in the five months through May, while its direct investment in the Philippines has hit $18.25 million, 82.5% higher than a year earlier.

China has donated 252,000 testing kits, 130 ventilators and 1.87 million medical masks to help the Philippines deal with the coronavirus that has sickened 14.9 million and killed almot 614,000 people worldwide.

Mr. Huang said both countries have continued to synergize the BRI and the Duterte administration’s massive infrastructure program.

“We have coordinated virus prevention and control efforts, resumed work and production, and promoted the construction of key cooperation projects in the Philippines in an orderly manner, helping to stabilize the local economy, ensure employment and improve people’s livelihoods in the country,” he said.

“Steady progress has been made in key projects involving Chinese assistance, such as the two bridges over Pasig River in Manila and the Philippine National Railways South Long-Haul Project,” he added.

The Chinese envoy also said new contracts worth $3.11 billion have been signed in the first five months, with a turnover of $970 million. More China-funded projects would come as the country eases restrictions, he added. — Charmaine A. Tadalan