President Duterte emphasized on Wednesday, Oct. 27, the importance of achieving full socio-economic recovery in the Southeast Asian region from the devastating coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis “the soonest possible time.”
Duterte made the remarks during the 24th ASEAN Plus Three (APT) Summit as he highlighted the APT’s “concerted efforts” in addressing the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have to ramp up our capabilities against COVID-19 and future public health emergencies,” Duterte said.
The President stressed that the establishment of the APT Reserve of Medical Supplies for public health emergencies is a strategic move to ensure that the region is “better prepared for future outbreaks.”
He welcomed the development of the new APT Work Plan, which “must reflect lessons learned from the pandemic, build on past gains, and identify new areas of cooperation.”
Duterte also expressed appreciation to China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea in promoting financial stability in the region through the ASEAN COVID-19 response fund and the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization agreement.
The President also took the opportunity to call on his counterparts to capitalize on their geographic advantage in improving the connectivity within the region.
“As littoral states, let us harness our seas to our advantage and ensure their peaceful use under the rule of law,” Duterte said.
He pointed out that the region must improve its connectivity by building synergies among the master plan on ASEAN 2025, New Southern Policy Plus, Belt and Road Initiative and the free and open Indo-Pacific strategy.
He said they should also consider creating a mechanism akin to the ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework to promote people-to-people connectivity.
“We should speed up work on the entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, as this will open new opportunities for increased economic exchanges in the region,” the President said.
“But growth for growth’s sake is not enough. We must ensure that no one is left behind as we recover,” he added.
Duterte concluded his remark by saying that they also have “to future-proof the region by building smart cities and utilizing digital technology.”
“We face a future permanently altered by the pandemic. If we are to move forward, we must do it together and live up to the promise of an Asian Century,” Duterte said.