Post-pandemic recovery efforts by great powers must not come at the expense of smaller nations, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said, stressing the development of these powerhouses must adhere to international law and norms.
In his keynote address during the Nikkei Future of Asia Conference on Friday, President Duterte said the pandemic has not halted the eastward shift of power, noting early recoveries in Asia accelerated it.
“We seem to be hurtling back to an era of heightened big power competition. This adds another layer of complexity to longstanding security issues in the region,” he said during the conference.
“Great powers must resist the temptation to pursue interests at the expense of smaller countries, in plain defiance of international law.”
The pandemic has shown nations that zero-sum approaches are self-defeating and futile, the President said, adding what hurts one ends up hurting everyone else.
And if Asia is to serve as an engine of global recovery, the Philippine president said all have to act responsibly within a system of norms, commitments, and obligations.
“We have to resolve our disputes peacefully according to international law. We have to work together – not against each other – to achieve common ends. This is the only way to realize the promise of a prosperous Asian century.”
The President also recognized the impacts of the pandemic especially in the economic sphere.
The global health crisis has accelerated the de-globalization process, he said, noting the lack of connectivity in many parts of Asia can reinforce fragmentation and may possibly result to lost opportunities for trade expansion among developing countries.
The Philippines is not blind to the geopolitics of diversification and decoupling, he said, stressing, however, that the country does not see the need to take sides in the ongoing geo-economic competition among big powers.
“We maintain that deficiencies in world trade must be urgently addressed. We reaffirm our support for a free and rules-based multilateral trading system,” the President said, believing that the key to recovery and shared prosperity remains the free movement of goods, capital, and services, as well as valuable human resources.
“The Philippines is ready to be a competitive actor in an open and fair global economy. Despite the pandemic, opportunities for growth remain.”
President Duterte also tackled the current fight against COVID-19, saying nations can draw many lessons from the ongoing global health crisis.
To address the contagion, he called for greater solidarity for collective, coordinated and comprehensive responses. Inward-looking policies are counterproductive, he added.
The Philippines, he said, supports all avenues for increased production of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines, adding the country has consistently championed universal, fair, and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
He also said that equitable access to vaccines is a shared responsibility of nations with the Philippines taking such commitment seriously and at the same time expects similar response from its partners.
During the conference, President Duterte expressed his gratitude to Japan and other partners in the COVAX facility, which, he said, benefited many developing countries including the Philippines. PND