President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday urged leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to implement a four-point “effective and strategic” response to defeat the coronavirus disease pandemic.
In his address during the virtual special summit of the ASEAN on COVID-19, President Duterte, speaking from Manila, underlined that the Southeast Asian nations should discuss strategies to defeat the COVID-19 that has afflicted thousands of people and caused economic disruption worldwide.
“To effectively overcome the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, ASEAN must collaborate and coordinate within our region and beyond,” Duterte said, emphasizing “four main areas where we can act collectively and support each other.”
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Duterte added: “We have to be ready for future outbreaks. We, therefore, have to improve and expand existing Asean’s mechanisms to cover public health emergencies, increase cooperation against the health crisis, cooperation on health and medical equipment, food security, research efforts, and future preparedness.”
Duterte identified these as the vital and concrete measures that we can do in a collective manner, as reiterated his call for stronger ASEAN cooperation against COVID-19.
“These immediate responses, while necessary, could drive our societies and the larger international community further apart. And yet, an effective, strategic response requires that we come together and cooperate even more.
“ASEAN must remain open for trade. Crisis or no crisis, as no country can stand alone. Let us, therefore ensure the supply chain connectivity and the smooth flow of goods within our region.
“Let us, therefore, ensure the supply chain connectivity and the smooth flow of goods within our region.”
He admitted the world and the ASEAN countries faced what he described as “an unfolding catastrophe—unprecedented in scale and devastating in impact for all.”
Duterte stressed, “an effective, strategic response requires that we come together and cooperate even more.”
READ: ASEAN leaders meet online to tackle coronavirus
He said: “We face a new and different kind of enemy. In the most visceral way, COVID-19 is upending the totality of our way of life. And this virus threatens to exact the highest tolls—on our peoples and our economies.
“We are forced to impose drastic measures to address this pandemic. We asked our people to distance from each other and stay home.
“We reduced socioeconomic activities to the barest minimum. And we closed our borders, creating barriers for mobility and trade.”
Duterte also proposed that Southeast Asian countries should continue to boost production and facilitate intra-Asean trade of life-saving necessities such as medicines and medical equipment and supplies.
The President also sought the establishment of an early warning system for pandemics in the region and backed Thailand’s proposal to create a COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund.
“COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic the world will face. We have to be ready for future outbreaks. We, therefore, have to improve and expand existing Asean’s mechanisms to cover public health emergencies,” he stressed.
Duterte also pushed for open trade and food security, especially on rice supply.
“ASEAN must remain open for trade. Crisis or no crisis, as no country can stand alone. Let us, therefore, ensure the supply chain connectivity and the smooth flow of goods within our region,” he added.
The President also appealed to fellow ASEAN leaders to speed up cooperation with its dialogue partners such as the United States, China, and Japan on vaccine and research and development initiatives. He said the Philippines is ready to join clinical trials for COVID-19 treatment.
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