MANILA, (Mabuhay) — President Rodrigo Duterte has sought the recalibration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean) plans to ensure the region’s faster recovery from the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, Malacañang said Friday.

Duterte made the call on his fellow Southeast Asian leaders when he delivered a seven-minute speech during the 36th Asean annual summit that was held online for the first time due to the threat posed by Covid-19, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual presser.

“Sinabi ng Pangulo na bagama’t meron tayong mga existing cooperation dito sa mga area na ito, kinakailangang ma-recalibrate ang ating mga plano para po tayo ay mas mabilis na maka-recover dito sa Covid-19 (The President said that while we have existing cooperation, we need to recalibrate our plans to ensure our faster recovery from Covid-19),” Roque said.

Duterte, he said, emphasized the need to step up the promotion of regional connectivity and sustainable supply chains, human capital development, and migrant workers’ rights.

The President also urged his fellow Asean leaders to strengthen the regional bloc’s capacity to address future infectious disease outbreaks, Roque said.

“At sinabi po niya makakamit natin ito sa pamamagitan ng research and capacity-building pagdating po sa health technology development (He said it could be achieved through research and capacity-building on health technology development),” he said.

Asean leaders have conducted various virtual meetings with their dialogue partners to come up with strategies intended to defeat Covid-19.

Arresting the further spread of Covid-19 is the Asean’s top priority.

‘Cohesive, responsive’ response

During the virtual Asean summit, Duterte told his fellow Southeast Asian leaders that there should be a “cohesive and responsive” response to stop the transmission of Covid-19 within the region, Roque said.

“Kinakailangan, sabi ni Pangulo, na magkaroon ng isang cohesive at responsive response ang Asean para tayo po ay ma-navigate out of this perfect storm of a crisis (The President said the Asean must have a cohesive and responsive response so it can navigate out of this perfect storm of a crisis),” he said.

Roque noted that Duterte also called for greater cooperation and connectivity as the Asean deals with the Covid-19 crisis.

He added that Duterte also welcomed the creation of an Asean Covid-19 response fund to boost the 10-member regional bloc’s efforts to combat Covid-19.

“Sinabi ni Presidente na ang Covid-19 ay nag-expose ng mga vulnerability sa ating mga sistema. Kasama sa mga vulnerability na sinabi ni Presidente ang mga limitasyon ng ating health care at ng ating social protection systems (The President said Covid-19 has exposed our systems’ vulnerabilities, such as limitations in our health care and social protection),” Roque said.

Economic integration

The Asean country with the highest number of Covid-19 infections is Indonesia, which reported a total of 50,187 confirmed cases.

It is followed by Singapore (42,736), the Philippines (33,069), Malaysia (8,600), Thailand (3,158), Vietnam (352), Myanmar (293), Brunei (141) Cambodia (130), and Laos (19).

Roque said most Asean leaders have signified their intent to further boost their economic cooperation to mitigate the adverse impact of the Covid-19 crisis and facilitate the region’s quick recovery.

He noted that Asean leaders have also agreed to have “common responses” to contain Covid-19.

“Ang naging panawagan ng mas marami sa kanila ay ang mas matindi pang economic integration dahil ito po ang susi para magkaroon ng mas mabilis na pag-recover dito sa Covid (Majority of them have sought economic integration because they believe it is the key for faster recovery from Covid-19),” Roque said.  (MNS)

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