MANILA - In his first appearance at the UN General Assembly, President Rodrigo Duterte said all countries should get access to coronavirus vaccines once these have been developed, deemed effective and distributed to the public.
In a pre-recorded video message to the UN convention that aired early Wednesday (Manila time), Duterte emphasized "ensuring universal access" to medicines and technology to combat COVID-19 "is pivotal in the global pandemic recovery."
"The world is in the race to find a safe and effective vaccine. When the world finds that vaccine, access to it must not be denied nor withheld. It should be made available to all, rich and poor nations alike, as a matter of policy," he said during the UN's 75th anniversary.
"The Philippines joins our partners in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the Non-Aligned Movement in raising our collective voice: the COVID-19 vaccine must be considered a global public good."
Duterte earlier called out Western countries and companies for allegedly profiting from the coronavirus pandemic.
A worldwide race for a coronavirus vaccine is underway, with at least 9 pharmaceutical firms in the US and Europe in late-stage trials.
Duterte urged UN members to pool resources to "empower" the World Health Organization, which has been battered by the pandemic and criticisms from some countries, like the United States.
"We need a WHO that is quick to coordinate and quicker to respond. The Philippines will do its part in the pooling of global resources. Our health workers are among the best," he said.
BIGGEST TEST SINCE WWII
The President said the pandemic is the "biggest test" the world and the UN is facing since World War 2.
"We are at a crossroads. How we address COVID-19 will define our future," he said.
Duterte said coordination of plans and courses of action between member states is vital while each country fights the pandemic with its own strategy since "COVID-19 knows no border."
He welcomed the launch of UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, which is UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' project designed to aid low and middle-income countries to overcome the health and development crisis caused by the pandemic and support those severely affected by the economic toll and social disruption it caused.
Since the start of the pandemic, 31.3 million people have contracted COVID-19, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University. Of those, 965,000 have died and 21.5 million have recovered.