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‘ASEAN must recalibrate vs COVID’

Francis Wakefield



PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte cited the massive effects on people of the coronavirus pandemic. PCOO Photo

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday called for “fundamental and systematic changes” in the ASEAN to effectively mitigate the adverse consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and facilitate the region’s comprehensive recovery.

The President made the call as he joined other regional leaders in productive discussions on community building in the face of COVID-19 at the 36th ASEAN Summit held via video conference in Hanoi, Vietnam on 26 June 2020.

Noting the massive disruptions caused by the pandemic, President Duterte said the ASEAN must recalibrate its plans by taking into consideration lessons learned from the crisis.

He cited the need to strengthen the region’s capacity to address future infectious diseases outbreaks through, for instance, research and capacity-building on health technology development

“The President stressed, in particular, the need to accelerate the promotion of regional connectivity and sustainable supply chains, human resource development, and migrant workers’ rights,” Chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje, said.

While the challenges posed by COVID-19 are considerable, Borje said the President also underscored that there are other threats that can undermine ASEAN’s security and development. These include terrorism, transnational crimes, and natural calamities.

President Duterte also noted recent incidents in the South China Sea, urging all parties “to refrain from escalating tensions and abide by responsibilities under international law, notably the 1982 UNCLOS”.

“In the midst of ongoing rivalry between the United States and China, the President called for ASEAN to remain united and to defend “an open and rules-based international order that gives all countries – large or small – not just one voice, but an equal standing”.,” Borje said.

Moving forward, Borje said the ASEAN leaders instructed ministers to craft a comprehensive recovery plan – one that will, hopefully, be innovative and ambitious, leading to a greener and sustainable future.

The leaders adopted a total of 12 outcome documents, including the ASEAN Leaders’ Vision Statement on “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN”, ASEAN Declaration on Human Resource Development for the Changing World of Work, Work Plan of the ASEAN Plan of Action to Prevent and Counter the Rise of Radicalization and Violent Extremism 2019- 2025, and the Terms of Reference of the ASEAN Technical and Vocational Training Council.

They also welcomed the ASEAN Economic Ministers’ issuance of the Hanoi Plan of Action on Strengthening ASEAN Economic Cooperation and Supply Chain Connectivity in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic as well as the establishment of the ASEAN Response Fund.

“These are key deliverables agreed upon at the Special ASEAN Summit on COVID19 which was held on 14 April 2020,” he said.

Joining the President during the Summit were key government officials, including Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin, Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez, Secretary of Social Welfare and Development Rolando Joselito Bautista, Secretary of Health Francisco Duque III, Secretary Harry Roque, and Senator Christopher Lawrence T. Go.

The 36th ASEAN Summit, the first regular summit held via videoconference, was chaired by the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.