With multiple challenges confronting the world today, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte called for an enhanced multilateralism among nations to address major issues such as the current coronavirus pandemic, climate change and heightening geopolitical tensions.
“We must act with a greater sense of shared responsibility and common destiny. The way forward is enhanced multilateralism,” President Duterte said in his intervention during the virtual 15th East Asia Summit on Saturday.
“We may differ in national priorities. But the Philippines believes that we share enough fundamental interests to unite us into action.”
The President said nations want sustained and inclusive growth and they must reopen their economies while containing the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Without a vaccine or a cure, however, this is difficult to achieve, he noted, adding countries must work together to ensure that everyone get access to safe and affordable vaccines.
The President believes COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asian countries must put in place effective early warning systems to immediate contain future contagions.
“We seek support from our partners for the ASEAN Center for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases and the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies,” he said.
“We must also deepen regional economic integration. It brings the most benefit to the greatest number of people.”
President Duterte said he is looking forward to the conclusion and swift implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).
The Chief Executive also called for an enhanced cooperation in promoting and protecting the rights of migrant workers regardless of their status.
In combating climate change, President Duterte made renewed calls for countries to intensify their efforts in achieving sustainable and resilient communities.
As the world marks the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, he urged ASEAN’s partners to recommit themselves to climate action and lead the way towards net zero emissions.
“We call for increased climate financing, technology transfer, and capacity building in our region so that we, too, can have a fair chance to develop and progress,” the President said. “Climate change is not just a matter of survival. It is equally a matter of justice.”
At the same time, the Philippine leader highlighted the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region.
To attain this, there must be an open and inclusive regional architecture where ASEAN plays a central role, he noted, adding Asia-Pacific must remain a region of peace where the rule of law is supreme.
The President also welcomed in his speech the interest of EAS partners to cooperate with ASEAN in line with the principles and agenda of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.
The Philippines, he said, particularly looks forward to enhanced engagement in maritime security.
The South China Sea must not be another locus of power play, the President said, noting it’s a dangerous game to play and one without a victor.
“Let us lower tensions, not raise them; build confidence rather than doubts; listen and understand instead of threaten,” he said, suggesting the 1982 UNCLOS prescribes a way forward.
The 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea favoring the Philippines is a definitive application of this constitution of the seas and is part of international law, he added. PND