MANILA - The Philippines will bring up the issues of equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and the South China Sea, among others, when foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet virtually for five days beginning Monday, its foreign ministry said.
These "Philippine priorities in ASEAN", including pandemic recovery, will be raised by Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. during the 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Aug. 2-6, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
"The Foreign Ministers are expected to discuss pandemic response and recovery, and other international and regional issues," the DFA said.
At the ASEAN Leaders' Meeting in April, the 10-member regional bloc "reiterated our commitment to implement the Implementation Plan of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework" on COVID-19.
"We welcomed the decision to utilise the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund to procure vaccines for the people of ASEAN as soon as possible," Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam said in the Chairman's Statement.
"We also welcomed the recent announcement made by Brunei Darussalam to respectively contribute USD 100,000 to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund."
Brunei currently chairs the ASEAN meetings.
Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, three of the ASEAN member states, have recently seen a surge in COVID-19 infections amid the spread of the Delta variant first reported in India.
On the maritime issue, China this year continued to be criticized for its incursions in Philippine waters despite a five-year-old arbitral court ruling invalidating its expansive claims in the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Myanmar's top military commander Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said that his government would accept the dispatch of a special envoy agreed in April by ASEAN to mediate among the parties and find a peaceful resolution to the crisis in the country.
The commander-in-chief also promised to hold a "free and fair multiparty general election" by August 2023 at the latest, after a two-year state of emergency expires.
He made the remarks in a televised speech six months after the Feb. 1 military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.
"I would like to say that Myanmar is ready to work on ASEAN cooperation within the ASEAN framework including the dialogue with the ASEAN special envoy in Myanmar," Min Aung Hlaing said.
Of the three original nominees for the ASEAN special envoy, he said, his government has agreed to select former Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Virasakdi Futrakul.
The envoy's selection is expected to be finalized when ASEAN foreign ministers meet on Monday.
It had initially been believed that the special envoy would be dispatched in mid-May, but the junta had shown little willingness to accept such a delegation.
The dispatch of the special envoy was one of the five items agreed upon at an extraordinary ASEAN summit held in Indonesia in late April to discuss the situation in the country.
The five items also included the need for an immediate suspension of violence and humanitarian assistance from ASEAN.
Aside from the 54th AMM, the following will also be held until Aug. 6: ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting Interface with ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights Representatives, Meeting of the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Commission, 23rd ASEAN Political-Security Community Council Meeting, 29th ASEAN Coordinating Council Meeting, Post Ministerial Conferences with Dialogue Partners, 22nd ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, 11th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and 28th ASEAN Regional Forum.
ASEAN also includes Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam.