Duterte to speak at virtual UN General Assembly debate

Published September 21, 2020, 2:50 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

For the first time since he took office in 2016, President Duterte is expected to address the United Nations (UN) and discuss urgent issues on the coronavirus response, human rights concerns, peace and security in the Asia Pacific, among others.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

The President will be the 12th speaker on the first day of the high-level general debate on the UN General Assembly (UNGA) slated from September 22 to 26, according to Presidential assistant for foreign affairs and chief of presidential protocol Robert Borje.

Borje explained that the President recognized the Philippines “cannot do it alone” and would articulate the country’s position on urgent issues and concerns before the world body.

The virtual gathering of 193 member-states coincides with the 75th anniversary of the United Nation this year. The global event carries theme “The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism – confronting COVID-19 through effective multilateral action.”

“This will be the President’s first time to address the UN General Assembly, the main deliberative organ of the UN where all the 193 member-states are represented,” Borje said during a televised press briefing Monday.

“The President recognizes that the Philippines cannot do it alone and the United Nations is the world’s biggest platform where one country can articulate a country’s principled position on many items and many issues. This is why he decided to join the UN General Assembly high-level debate this month,” he said.

He said the President’s participation to the UNGA has been considered since the start of his term but this year “takes on a special significance.” Apart from the UN commemorative milestone, he mentioned the “intensity and urgency needed to address global issues.”

The President may tackle human rights issues, including criticisms related to his controversial war on illegal drugs, the maritime dispute in the South China Sea, and proposed UN reforms during his historic address before the world body.

“The President will articulate principled positions of the Philippines on a wide range of issues,” Borje said.

“I don’t want to preempt the President but these are the ones of key importance to the country and I will identify them, that will be the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, peace and order including terrorism and geopolitical developments in the Asia Pacific, sustainable development and climate change, the rule of law, justice and human rights including the situation of migrant workers and refugees, peacekeeping and United Nations reforms,” he added.

Asked if he will raise the country’s West Philippine Sea claims and equitable access to coronavirus vaccine, Borje said: “The President is certain to raise the issue on the global response to the coronavirus pandemic and geopolitical developments in the Asia Pacific.”

On whether he will address criticisms on the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, Borje said: “Yes, that will be part of the President’s speech. He will address issues on human rights and justice.”

Borje said the President will be among the first set of speakers for September 22 based on UN schedule. “The time block from is from 9 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. New York time. He is inscribed as the 12th speaker of 14 speakers for the morning session,” he said.

Borje said the the first speaker of the morning session will be Brazil, followed by the United States, Turkey, China and Chile. The next round of speakers will be South Africa, Cuba, Russia, Jordan, Korea, Qatar, the Philippines, Iran and France.

“This is also the first time that he high level general debate and other high level meetings of the UNGA will be done virtually in view of the restrictions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.

The President previously hit back at the UN for allegedly interfering in his war on drugs but keeping silent on other atrocities happening elsewhere in the world. He once called the UN “stupid and inutile” and threatened to bolt from world body due to its interference in local affairs.