Duterte calls for 'cohesive' ASEAN response to COVID-19 crisis in online summit

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 26 2020 02:08 PM | Updated as of Jun 26 2020 06:26 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte gives his intervention as he joins other leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries during the 36th ASEAN Summit video conference at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on June 26, 2020. King Rodriguez, Presidential Photo

MANILA (UPDATE)-- President Rodrigo Duterte called on Friday for a "cohesive" regional response to the coronavirus pandemic as Southeast Asian leaders convened virtually to discuss the regional bloc's recovery.

Duterte, during the 36th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, called for "fundamental and systematic changes" in Southeast Asia to give way to a comprehensive regional recovery from the pandemic, Malacañang said in a statement.

"This pandemic has exposed the limitations of our healthcare and social protection systems," he said during his intervention.

"Our task now is to recalibrate our plans so we can build back better," he said.

The Philippine leader noted that ASEAN as a region should strengthen supply chain networks to address gaps in the regional response to the pandemic.

"This pandemic has taught us that we must choose to be nature’s stewards, not its abusers. Lockdowns have also forced us to take full advantage of technology and innovation. The adoption of e-commerce, e-learning, videoconferencing, and artificial intelligence have all been accelerated by the crisis," he added.

ASEAN leaders during the summit instructed ministers to craft a "comprehensive recovery plan" from the pandemic, which has disrupted economies worldwide.

Duterte, who previously called for fair and easy access to potential coronavirus treatments and vaccines, urged ASEAN nations to strengthen the region's capacity to handle future disease outbreaks through research and capacity-building on health technology development.

GENDER-RESPONSIVE RECOVERY PLAN

Meantime, during a special session on women's empowerment, Duterte said women need to take a more active role post-pandemic as he called for a gender-responsive recovery plan.

He said nations need to "ensure more women's active participation as we go into the new normal," noting that giving women control and access to digital technology must be a priority.

"We have to make cyberspace a safe place for women to connect, learn, and innovate," Duterte said.

The leaders adopted a total of 12 outcome documents including the ASEAN Leaders' Vision Statement on "Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN," and the ASEAN Declaration on Human Resource Development for the Changing World of Work.

Friday's event is the first regular ASEAN Summit to be held online and follows the special virtual conference in April on the pandemic response.

There are more than 135,000 COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, with Indonesia having the most number of infections at over 50,000.