Duterte welcomes ASEAN collaboration on vaccine production

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Duterte welcomes ASEAN collaboration on vaccine production
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he accompanies some of PDP-Laban's senators slate for next year's elections with the Commission on Elections in Manila on October 8, 2021.
Aaron Favila / POOL / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed support for collaboration among Southeast Asian nations on COVID-19 vaccine production and has stressed the need to fast-track the purchase of jabs as the region paves what he described as the "long and difficult" road to recovery.

Speaking during the 22nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Republic of Korea Summit (ASEAN-ROK) last Tuesday, Duterte said COVID-19 has exposed the weakness of economies and underscored the need for a "deeper regional economic integration."

"As we work towards recovery, we welcome collaboration on vaccine production and other initiatives under the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework," Duterte said.

The president said the Philippines is also looking forward to closer cooperation in public health security with the convening of the ASEAN-ROK Health Dialogue Channel. He also lauded South Korea's COVID-19 response and thanked the East Asian country for its contribution to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund.

During the plenary session of the 38th ASEAN summit, Duterte urged the ASEAN Secretariat to expedite vaccine procurement through the response fund.

"If there are still available funds, then we should purchase more," the Philippine leader said.

Duterte said ASEAN should have its own regional vaccine research and production facilities so it would be ready for future public health emergencies.

"Today’s circumstances tell us one thing: The road to comprehensive and inclusive recovery will be long and difficult. While we welcome and appreciate the support of our external partners, we as ASEAN community must be able to stand on our own," he said.

The president also called on ASEAN leaders to ensure the phased and comprehensive implementation of the broad strategies under the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework.

"We also need to immediately establish the ASEAN Centre on Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases. It has been almost a year since we conceptualized the Centre. Our generous donors and partners are still waiting for us to choose the host country," he added.

Duterte also cited the need to operationalize the ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework to revitalize the region's economies, noting that an open multilateral trading system and a clear roadmap are vital to recovery. He reiterated the Philippines’ commitment to ratify the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a free trade deal that seeks to link 16 Asia Pacific economies, within the year.

Duterte also welcomed the signing of the Philippines-ROK Free Trade Agreement, calling it "a step towards deeper integration which is needed for our economies to recover and bounce back."

He likewise reiterated his call for all parties to continue dialogue to achieve lasting peace and stability in a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and expressed support for the upgrade of South Korea's New Southern Policy.

"Cooperation in the digital content industry, through capacity building and co-production, can certainly bring our peoples even closer together," he added.

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