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âA gross injustice to exclude poor nations from vaccineâ
Presidente Rodrigo Duterte said the Philippines would cooperate and help in pooling of resources in the fight against COVID-19. The President also underscored the importance of supporting the medical initiatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as a multilateral approach in finding access to the vaccine.
Presidential Photo/King Rodriguez

‘A gross injustice to exclude poor nations from vaccine’

Christina Mendez, Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) - December 5, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte reiterated before the United Nations yesterday the Philippines’ call for universal access to safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19, calling the possible exclusion of poor countries from the race to secure vaccines a “gross injustice.”

“If any country is excluded by the reason of poverty or strategic unimportance, this gross injustice will haunt the world for a long time. It will completely discredit the values upon which the United Nations was founded. We cannot let this happen, no one is safe unless everyone is safe,” he said in a recorded video message at the 31st special session of the UN General Assembly.

Duterte said the Philippines would cooperate and help in pooling of resources in the fight against COVID-19. The President also underscored the importance of supporting the medical initiatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as a multilateral approach in finding access to the vaccine.

“The Philippines strongly supports global medical and scientific initiative forged by the WHO,” he said.

“Together, with our brothers in ASEAN and the non-aligned movement, the Philippines supports global health agenda with adequate resourcing and policy space for the WHO,” he added.

“We will contribute to the pooling of global resources and help other countries without pre-conditions. Our collective initiatives in the UN and other multilateral frameworks are our best chance to defeat COVID-19,” the President said.

“(The) COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of societies and institutions. Our immediate responses were necessary. Yet, (it has) driven our societies apart,” he said, reiterating an earlier statement at the High-Level Debate of the 75th Session of the UNGA a few months ago. He lamented some countries were not readily capable of getting the vaccines.

“When everyone needs the same limited resources, the compulsion to resort to a zero-sum approach is amplified. Yet this pandemic demands the opposite response – enhanced cooperation,” Duterte said.

In his speech, Duterte said “life-saving services and products must be made accessible to the most vulnerable. The most to the least.”

“The Philippines aims for a comprehensive and inclusive recovery, with no one left behind. We are using all our available socio-economic instruments to protect our hard won gains in development,” Duterte said.

Citing the Philippine experience, Duterte said the pandemic has improved the country’s use of the e-commerce platform and other advanced technologies such as e-learning, video conferencing and artificial intelligence.

“Inadvertently, this pandemic has opened greener and more resilient pastures of growth and development. It has also laid bare how interconnected our societies have become,” Duterte added.

“Now is the time to further strengthen our networks of solidarity and cooperation. Mr. President, the time is now for greater collective courage, meaningful action to see the end of this pandemic,” he said.

“With the path clear to see how far we can go working with each other and how much we can achieve when we act not as separate nations, but one humanity. There is simply no other way for the United Nations,” he said.

The Special Session was held pursuant to Resolution 75/4 adopted by the General Assembly on Nov. 5 to reaffirm the key role of the UN in maintaining global order, especially in the face of global public health crisis. It was first proposed by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), of which the Philippines is a member.

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