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Duterte raises Covid-19 pandemic issue at Asean summit

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ASEAN SUMMITS. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his remarks at the virtual 38th and 39th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summits and Related Summits hosted by Brunei Darussalam at the Malacañang Palace on Tuesday (Oct. 26, 2021). Duterte is accompanied by some members of his Cabinet. (Presidential photo by King Rodriguez)


ANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte emphasized Tuesday the importance of defeating the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and settling the South China Sea (SCS) dispute during the 38th and 39th Asean Summits and Related Summits under the chairmanship of Brunei.


Duterte made the remarks during his "productive discussions" with fellow Southeast Asian leaders, as well as the South Korean and Chinese leaders, at the virtual opening of the 38th and 39th Asean Summits and Related Summits, the Office of the President (OP) said in a press statement.


"Speaking at the 38th ASEAN Summit, President Duterte stressed that Asean's road to recovery from Covid-19 will be long and difficult as the region is still reeling from the impact of the pandemic," the OP said.


Duterte, the Palace said, emphasized the need to ensure the "phased and comprehensive" implementation of the Asean Comprehensive Recovery Framework which contains initiatives and strategies that will help the region recover from the Covid-19 crisis.


He also called for the immediate establishment of the Asean Centre on Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases that will serve as Asean's hub to strengthen its capabilities to prepare for, prevent, detect, and respond to public health emergencies and emerging diseases.


Duterte, in his intervention at the 24th Asean-China summit, said the "dynamic" Asean-China cooperation would help both sides "combat the Covid -19 pandemic, address climate change and manage geopolitical issues."


"He thanked China for supporting Asean’s pandemic response, particularly by making life-saving vaccines global public goods," the OP said.


During the summit, Duterte also renewed his call on his fellow Asean leaders to stay united in pursuing peace, stability, and prosperity in SCS, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award.


“We have come a long way in keeping the peace and promoting prosperity in our region. We must not allow those with diverging interests to make our efforts fail,” Duterte said.



(Presidential photo)


The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam are the four Asean member-states with competing claims in SCS.


The other SCS claimants include China and Taiwan.


Malacañang said Duterte asked sea claimants to remain committed to the full implementation of the non-binding Declaration on the 2002 Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, pending the crafting of a final and binding Code of Conduct (COC) in the highly contested waters.


The DOC, inked on Nov. 4, 2002, aims to exercise self-restraint, and promote non-militarization within the SCS. On the other hand, the COC in SCS intends to promote peace and stability in the busy waterway.


“Talks should not remain empty rhetoric. They should be translated into action to fortify the trust and confidence we have cultivated through the years. Deeds, not words,” Duterte said.


Noting the Philippines' contribution to the substantive progress in the second reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text, Duterte also reaffirmed the Philippines' commitment to the conclusion of an "effective and substantive" sea code, the OP said.


Duterte also reiterated the Philippines’ call for "holistic" efforts to protect and preserve biodiversity and the marine environment, as he stressed that 2017 to 2027 is the "Decade of Coastal and Marine Environmental Protection in SCS."


Apart from Covid-19 pandemic and SCS disputes, Duterte also urged his fellow Asean leaders to stand with Myanmar in "solving its crisis peacefully for the welfare of its people, the Palace said.


"The President urged all parties in Myanmar to engage in constructive dialogue, stressing that the Asean Special Envoy must be allowed to visit Myanmar soon to meet all relevant parties," Malacañang said.



(Presidential photo)


During the 22nd Asean-South Korea Summit, the President welcomed the Joint Statement on Advancing their cooperation and emphasized the need for "deeper" regional integration to accelerate post-pandemic recovery.


"He (Duterte) welcomed the signing of the Philippines-ROK Free Trade Agreement today, 'which is needed for our economies to recover and bounce back,” the OP said.


Duterte, Malacañang said, also pushed for the full implementation of the Asean-Korea Free Trade Agreement and the early entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.


The Palace said Duterte also welcomed the United Kingdom as Asean's new Dialogue Partner and promised to bolster ties with the European Union (EU) as the new Country Coordinator for Asean-EU Dialogue Relations.


Key Philippine officials who joined Duterte during the first virtual summits were Secretaries Teodoro Locsin Jr. (Foreign Affairs), Delfin Lorenzana (Defense), Ramon Lopez (Trade), Joselito Bautista (Social Welfare), and Carlito Galvez Jr. (National Task Force Against Covid-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar), the OP said. (PNA)


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