• Melo Acuna

PRRD highlights need for unity

President Duterte says ASEAN’s immediate priority is health security

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte said deeper engagement on vital issues bind the countries belonging to ASEAN.

Delivering his intervention at the 37th ASEAN Summit from Malago Clubhouse in Malacanang Park in rain-drenched National Capital Region this morning, President Duterte said the region’s immediate priority is health security.

“we have to strengthen our health systems by ensuring the unimpeded supply of medical supplies and technologies, and by enhancing early warning systems for health emergencies,” he said. He called for the fast tracking of the implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework, the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies as well as the ASEAN Center for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases.

He called on his colleagues to ensure access to safe vaccines as “No one is safe until all of us are safe.”

He also called for the deepening of regional integration and strengthening of the supply chain connectivity. He said the Philippines welcomes the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic partnership or RCEP.

President Duterte said growth to bring transformation should be enjoyed by everyone as he called for the sub-regional arrangements including the BIMP-EAGA and bridge the development gaps within the region.

He further said to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, “Our actions must be people centered.”

He cited the massive displacement of workers which include migrant workers which underscores the need to retrain and reskill the labor force and equip the people for what he said as “rapidly evolving labor market under the new normal.”

President Duterte said he welcomes the support extended to the Philippines’ chairmanship of the ASEAN Technical and Vocational Education and Training Council as he vowed to build partnerships to implement the Roadmap of the ASEAN Declaration on Human Resources Development for the Changing World of Work.

During his intervention, President Duterte said the successive typhoons left a trail of destruction and represents “a setback for our development agenda, particularly in the affected regions.”

He said there is urgency of collective action to mitigate the effects of climate change.

“More importantly, we must amplify our voices to demand climate justice from those most responsible for this existential challenge we face today. Developed countries must lead in deep and drastic cuts in carbon emissions. They must act now, or it would be too late. Or if I may say addedly, it is too late,” he said. He called on these countries to deliver on their commitment to finance and invest in innovative adaptation solutions in the development world.

President Duterte said existing geopolitical landscape creates challenges to the ASEAN’s claim of Centrality.

He said external powers will continue to maneuver “to get us to choose camps.” He added ASEAN must resist the maneuvers, “consistently and firmly.”

He said peace and stability can only be guaranteed by an open and inclusive order “where ASEAN remains the fulcrum of regional security processes and mechanisms.”

He called on his fellow ASEAN leaders to remain united and show everyone the independence to chart the region’s destiny.

President Duterte admitted the South China Sea issue is ASEAN’s strategic challenge.

“How we deal with this matter lays bare our strengths and weaknesses as a Community. We must act with haste,” he further explained.

He reiterated the Philippine position which he described as “clear and firm” as he cited the need for a peaceful solution of disputes which augurs well with international law which include UNCLOS.

He further said the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea was “an authoritative interpretation of the application of the UNCLOS,” as it has become part of international law. He said the ruling’s significance cannot be diminished nor ignored by any country, however big and powerful.

He assured his ASEAN counterparts the Philippines supports moves to transform the South China Sea as a as sea of peace and prosperity for everyone.

“We are committed to the immediate conclusion of a substantive and effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. And if I may add, it has been a long time and it is a long wait,” he concluded as he congratulated the host for this year’s Summit, Viet Nam for its adept and responsive chairmanship of ASEAN which he described as a “challenging year.” (Melo M. Acuña)


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