Duterte calls for global agreement on digital vaccine cards

President Duterte said it was about time that the world thought of having internationally recognized vaccination certificates to restart economies that have reeled from the effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

President Duterte delivers his Intervention at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Informal Leaders’ Retreat via virtual convention from New Zealand on July 16, 2021. (Malacañang photo)

Duterte made the statement during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Informal Leaders' Retreat on Friday evening, July 16, Manila time.

In his intervention during the virtual summit, the President noted how countries can "build fortresses and create travel bubbles" with one another but pointed out that this was not a sustainable pathway to recovery.

"APEC must also take the initiative to facilitate international travel while safeguarding public health," he said.

"It is about time that we consider arrangements on the use of internationally recognized digital vaccination certificates that are scientific, verifiable, and non-discriminatory," he added.

Last month, Malacañang said there should be an international agreement to have a standard certificate so it will not be difficult for countries to authenticate COVID-19 vaccination cards.

Meanwhile, the President, in his intervention, said the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled many economies, including the Philippines, to ramp up fiscal spending on mitigation and recovery measures that resulted in the increase of debt among many developing countries.

"It is crucial that we ensure debt sustainably to avert volatilities in global financial markets," he said.

"We must coordinate policy responses to prevent sudden swings in interest rates that could affect debt servicing," he added.

Duterte said that economic recovery was contingent on resilient global value chains and free movement of goods and peoples. To advance this agenda, he said APEC must expedite the realization of the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific, drawing elements from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement and other regional arrangements.

The RCEP is a free trade agreement between the Asia-Pacific nations of Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.

He likewise pointed out how the crisis has accelerated the world's shift to e-commerce and other digital activities.

"We need to ensure that micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are able to fully participate in the digital economy. After all, APEC is home to more than 100 million MSMEs. They are drivers of economic growth," Duterte said.

According to the President, COVID-19 will not be the last disruptive event that humanity will face but the global and domestic mechanisms remained inadequate to address systemic shocks of great magnitude.

"It is our collective obligation future-proof our region," he said.

"We can do this by harnessing technology and innovation through enhanced multilateralism," he added.

In his intervention during the virtual retreat, President Duterte likewise called for an end to vaccine nationalism, saying the pandemic has become an “unforgiving race to immunity” due to the lack of bold, collaborative responses to the situation.