MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday urged his fellow Southeast Asian leaders to ensure that all nations have access to future vaccines against the novel coronavirus, a disease that has prompted months of quarantine measures around the world and dragged economies into recession.
The coronavirus pandemic "is the defining challenge of our generation" as countries "strove to achieve a delicate balance of saving lives while keeping our economies afloat," Duterte said in the 37th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.
"The path we must take is clear – it is that of deeper engagement on vital issues that bind us together as one ASEAN Community," he told the 10-member bloc via video conference.
"We must work together to ensure that all nations – rich or poor – will have access to safe vaccines. No one is safe until all of us are safe," he said.
He urged the ASEAN to "strengthen our health systems by ensuring the unimpeded supply of medical supplies and technologies, and by enhancing early warning systems for health emergencies."
The ASEAN must also "deepen regional integration and strengthen supply chain connectivity" while providing "people-centered" solutions, said the President.
"The massive displacement of workers, including migrant workers, compels us to upskill and reskill our labor force. We must equip our people for a rapidly evolving labor market under the new normal," Duterte said.
"As we recover, no sector must be left behind. Our efforts should be targeted and inclusive. We must address the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on women, migrant workers, and other vulnerable sectors. We have to adopt gender-responsive measures and strengthen social protection systems," he added.
The Philippines on Wednesday recorded 1,672 new coronavirus infections and 49 additional deaths. In a bulletin, the health department said total confirmed cases have increased to 401,416 while deaths have reached 7,710.
- With a report from Reuters