Duterte: Cohesive Asean can defeat Covid-19

President Rodrigo Duterte wears a protective mask as he speaks on the coronavirus situation of the country during a late-night live broadcast from Malacañang on April 8, 2020. (File photo)

President Rodrigo R. Duterte pushed for a united response against the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) during the 36th Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) Summit on Friday to help in the quick recovery of the regional bloc from the effects of the pandemic.

During his 7-minutes speech in the online event, he said the realization of the integrated approach, which he is advocating for was the newly launched ASEAN Covid-19 Response Fund.

The fund can be availed by ASEAN members to purchase medical equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE), which will be crucial in their anti-Covid response. 

It will be created from the contributions of ASEAN members and its partner countries. 

“This pandemic has exposed the limitations of our healthcare and social protection systems,” Duterte said. 

“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,” he added. 

Stronger online connection 

Duterte also supported the “strengthening economic cooperation” during the Covid-19 crisis through the use of new technology. 

He said this could be achieved through the adoption of e-commerce, e-learning, videoconferencing, and artificial intelligence.  

“Forced experimentation with remote work could spur more services offshoring. These will spread [growth across] regions while minimizing harm to the environment,” Duterte said. 

He said the establishment of the ASEAN Technical Vocational and Education Training Council will allow workers to gain the necessary skills for the new trend. 

Supply chain connectivity 

However, Duterte also said physical trade and travel should still be given attention to ensure supply chain connectivity.  

“We have to maximize trade facilitation initiatives to promote the growth and participation of MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprise] in regional and global value chains,” Duterte said. 

There were interests among ASEAN countries for the  resumption of business interaction and travel in ASEAN, which was suspended or restricted in previous months due to Covid-19, during the summit. 

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who was also monitoring the summit, said the at least two ASEAN leaders have advocated for the resumption of business flights in the Southeast Asian region subject to health protocols.   

Crisis resilience

Looking forward, Duterte also pushed for greater ASEAN cooperation in promoting research and capacity-building on health technology to boost the bloc’s resilience to future pandemics. 

“We must enable the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity to contribute in combating wildlife trafficking to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases,” Duterte said. 

He also said the recovery plan of each ASEAN member country from the effects of Covid-19 can serve as an opportunity for them to make their economies more sustainable. 

“I join other Leaders in tasking our Ministers to craft a recovery plan that is innovative and ambitious, and one that will lead us to a greener and more sustainable future,” Duterte said.

Image credits: Toto Lozano, Malacañang Presidential Photographers Division via AP


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