MANILA - All countries should be given fair and easy access to potential coronavirus treatments and vaccines, President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday as Asian leaders discussed how to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
While there is no vaccine yet for COVID-19, Duterte said countries should already start discussing access to potential cure for the disease that has swept the world since it first emerged in China late last year.
"Our duty then and that of relevant multilateral institutions is to make sure that all countries will have fair and easy access to vaccines and treatments," Duterte said in a video conference with his fellow Southeast Asian leaders, and those of China, Japan and South Korea.
"Discussions on modalities should be started," Duterte said at the virtual ASEAN Plus Three Summit on COVID-19.
During his intervention, Duterte said the Philippines is ready to participate in clinical trials and medical studies of potential vaccines and medicines for COVID-19.
"We must significantly enhance scientific cooperation, particularly in the area of vaccine and anti-viral treatment research and development," he said.
"There can be no victory if we do not defeat the virus everywhere. We have to choose the intelligent and productive path of cooperation. It is the only way," he said.
Duterte also underscored food security in the midst of the crisis, warning of "social unrest with all its attendant complications" if people are left hungry.
He said "imposing unnecessary trade restrictions on staple foods and other basic commodities will be harmful, and urged the use of existing mechanisms such as the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve.
Globally, COVID-19 has killed more than 100,000 people and infected over 1.8 million others, according to the World Health Organization.
In Southeast Asia meanwhile, the Philippines has the most number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the region as of Monday, data from the ABS-CBN Data Analytics team showed.
The country on Tuesday breached the 5,000-mark in its total tally of COVID-19 cases with a nationwide count of 5,223 cases. Of the said figure, 295 have recovered and 335 have died.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.