• Melo Acuna

Closer collaboration needed to fight COVID-19

Foreign Secretary Locsin cites importance of strengthening healthcare system

MANILA – With ASEAN Foreign Ministers and US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meeting today to discuss partnerships to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Foreign Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. underscored the need to strengthen the healthcare system through increased production and supply of medicines, medical equipment, and other medical supplies along with ensuring food security by keeping ASEAN markets open and safeguarding supply chain connectivity for staples including rice as well as speedy research and development of vaccines among others.

In a statement released late Thursday evening, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Filipino health care workers remain at the core of health care systems, including Filipino-American front liners risking their lives in the United States. He conveyed his hope for the US to continue protecting them and remember their contributions as the US crafts its immigration policy in the light of COVID-19 during the ASEAN-US Special Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on the Coronavirus Disease 2019.

“The Foreign Ministers noted concerns expressed over recent developments in the South China Sea that increased tensions at a time when all efforts and resources are focused on battling the pandemic,” the DFA statement revealed. It added the top ASEAN and US diplomats recognized the importance of contributing to the maintenance of peace, security, stability, and the rule of law in the region amid the fight against COVID-19.

“This is essential at a time when countries must not only navigate the COVID crisis, but must also prepare a post-pandemic plan of social and economic recovery,” Secretary Locsin said in his intervention. He explained in Asia, that recovery hinges on China’s recovery from the ravages of the pandemic; “but it can never be at the price of our honor and sovereignty.”

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said his country’s position on the South China Sea “is clear and consistent.” He said “due to the complexity and sensitivity of the issue, all parties must work together to maintain peace, security and stability in the South China sea and increase efforts to build, maintain and enhance mutual trust and confidence.

In a statement released at 3:40 P.M. Thursday, he reiterated his country’s firm commitment to safeguard the interests and rights in the South China Sea. He underscored his country’s view that the South China Sea should remain a sea of peace and trade.

“Matters relating to the South China Sea must be resolved peacefully based on the principles of international law, which includes the United nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982.

In his statement, he said as a former Defense Minister, he is “deeply aware and conscious of the situation.” He called on everyone to avoid unintended, accidental incidents in the waters. Though international law guarantee the freedom of navigation, the presence of warships and vessels in the South China Sea “has the potential to increase tensions that in turn may result in miscalculations which may affect peace, security and stability of the region.”

Minister Tun Hussein said disputes should be resolved amicably through peaceful means, diplomacy and mutual trust by all concerned parties.

“Just because we have not made a public statement on this does not mean we have not been working on all the above mentioned, we have open and continuous communicatio9n with all relevant parties, including the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America,” he concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)

Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. (right) said there is a need to strengthen the healthcare system to fight COVID-19 during the ASEAN-US Special Foreign Ministers' Meeting in COVID-19 with US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo. (DFA Photo)


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