President Rodrigo Duterte said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations should recalibrate its plans to ensure the region’s fast recovery from COVID-19, the Palace said Friday.
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“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause disruptions worldwide with far-reaching consequences. To survive, we need to make fundamental and systemic changes. And only a cohesive and responsive ASEAN can help us all safely navigate out of this perfect storm of a crisis. Greater cooperation and connectivity are vital for our region to thrive under the new normal that COVID-19 imposes on all of us,” Duterte said in his seven-minute intervention.
Asean leaders agreed to work on a comprehensive recovery plan for the region amid the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and welcomed the Hanoi Plan of Action to strengthen cooperation and supply chain connectivity within the bloc.
READ: ASEAN leaders meet online to tackle coronavirus
The Hanoi Action Plan, issued by the ASEAN Economic Ministers, also calls for the establishment of an ASEAN Response Fund to boost the 10-member regional bloc’s efforts to combat COVID-19.
Vietnam, the current chair of the ASEAN, on Friday warned the pandemic had swept away years of economic gains as Southeast Asian leaders met online for a summit.
The immediate focus for the 10-member bloc is the crippling cost of COVID-19, which has ravaged the economies of tourism and export-reliant countries such as the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
A special ASEAN meeting convened in April to tackle the pandemic failed to agree on an emergency fund.
The country’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc gave a sobering opening address on Friday that emphasised the “serious consequences” of the pandemic for economic development among ASEAN’S members.
“It has swept away the successes of recent years... threatening the lives of millions of people,” he said.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte emphasized the need to step up the promotion of regional connectivity and sustainable supply chains, human capital development, and migrant workers’ rights.
The President also urged his fellow ASEAN leaders to strengthen the regional bloc’s capacity to address future outbreaks of infectious diseases, Roque said.
ASEAN leaders have conducted various virtual meetings with their dialogue partners to come up with strategies intended to defeat Covid-19.
Arresting the further spread of COVID-19 is the ASEAN’s top priority.
He added that Duterte also welcomed the creation of an ASEAN COVID-19 response fund to boost efforts to combat the pandemic.
“The President said COVID-19 has exposed our systems’ vulnerabilities, such as limitations in our health care and social protection,” Roque said.
The ASEAN country with the highest number of COVID-19 infections is Indonesia, followed by Singapore and the Philippines.
Roque said most Asean leaders have signified their intent to further boost their economic cooperation to mitigate the adverse impact of the COVID-19 crisis and facilitate the region’s quick recovery.
He noted that Asean leaders have also agreed to have “common responses” to contain COVID-19.
“Majority of them have sought economic integration because they believe it is the key for faster recovery from Covid-19,” Roque said in Filipino. With AFP
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