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Duterte renews call for ASEAN center for public health, emerging diseases



President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his call to member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to hasten the creation of a regional center for public health emergencies and emerging diseases amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summit held via video conference, Duterte called on the 10-member group to fast-track the formation of the regional center, as well as the implementation of the bloc’s Comprehensive Recovery Framework.

“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,” according to the Office of the President.

“He emphasized that ASEAN must ensure the phased and comprehensive implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and called for the immediate establishment of the ASEAN Centre on Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases,” the Palace added.

During the summit, he also emphasized the importance of international cooperation in addressing the health crisis.

The President first pitched the formation of the regional center for public health before the ASEAN Summit last year.

Japan donated US$50 million to establish the project. At present, ASEAN is working towards the program’s operationalization through its coordination platform.

The recent summit focuses on joint efforts for a post-pandemic recovery and vaccine procurement as Asian countries recently began to reopen their economies and borders following the receding of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Also included in the agenda are the bloc’s efforts in strengthening its disaster response and upholding multilateralism.

The series of meetings, which seeks to advance ASEAN’s community-building process under the theme “We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper,” also mark the conclusion of Brunei’s role as the region’s chairman this year.

During the ceremonies, Brunei will hand over the chairmanship to Cambodia as part of the preparations for ASEAN summits in 2022.