• Melo Acuna

President Duterte underscores ASEAN collaboration and cooperation vs COVID-19

To overcome COVID-19, President Duterte says ASEAN collaboration and cooperation essential

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte said COVID-19 pandemic is an “unfolding catastrophe, unprecedented in scale and devastating in impact for all.”

Delivering his intervention at the Special ASEAN Summit on COVID-19 hosted by Vietnam, President Duterte said the virus “threatens to exact the highest tolls – on our peoples and our economies.”

He said drastic measures have been made to address the pandemic where people have been asked to distance from each other and stay home.

“We reduced socio-economic activities to the barest minimum. And we closed our borders, creating barriers for mobility and trade,” he said. He, however, said the responses though necessary, may drive societies and larger international community farther apart.

“And yet, an effective, strategic response requires that we come together and cooperate even more,” he explained as getting out of regional and global connections may not be the answer to the pandemic.

“To effectively overcome the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, ASEAN must collaborate and coordinate within our region and beyond,” he added.

He said collaboration is needed as healthcare systems are under increasing stress as infections rise, beleaguered by a shortage of vital medicines and equipment and supplies. Production of these requirements need enhancement through intra-ASEAN trade.

He called for partnership in ensuring food security in the region, specifically mentioning rice for its growing population as he called on ASEAN leaders to keep trade open with due importance of the supply chain connectivity and smooth flow of goods within the region of 647.7 million people.

President Duterte added food security is key to maintaining socio-economic and political stability, “especially at a time of great difficulty for our people.”

He called on the medical and research communities, for without a vaccine or a cure, various governments can only delay the spread of the disease as containment “in whatever form or degree, will have staggering socio-economic implications for all.”

President Duterte warned his counterparts COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic as he called on his colleagues to be prepared for future outbreaks underscoring the need to improve and expand existing ASEAN’s mechanisms to cover public health emergencies.

“Our present challenge transcends borders and exempts no one. Regardless of how we handle the crisis within our own respective territories, we can only be truly safe if we defeat this virus everywhere,” he concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his intervention at the Special ASEAN Summit on COVID-19. (RTVM Photo)

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