Concerned that the coronavirus pandemic won’t be the last, President Duterte has called for the establishment of an early warning system and timely response to deal with public health emergencies in Southeast Asia.

DUTERTE 4 1024x684 - Duterte seeks early warning system for public health emergencies in Southeast Asia
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his remarks during the virtual 15th EAST ASIA Summit at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on November 14, 2020. (KING RODRIGUEZ / PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Concerned that the coronavirus pandemic won’t be the last, President Duterte has called for the establishment of an early warning system and timely response to deal with public health emergencies in Southeast Asia.

Speaking at the virtual 15th East Asia Summit Saturday, the President has endorsed a regional center for public health emergencies as well as a reserve of essential medical supplies to enable rapid response to emergency needs.

In line with his call for multilateralism in dealing with global challenges, Duterte urged Asia-Pacific allies to support these disaster preparedness and response efforts in case another pandemic erupts.

“COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic. The next big one will come and it will just be a matter of ‘when.’ We must have effective early warning systems – as correctly pointed out by (Indonesian) President (Joko) Widodo – and timely response mechanisms,” Duterte said in his remarks via video conference.

“We seek support from our partners for the ASEAN Center for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases and the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies,” he said.

The President, in the same speech at the regional summit, made a pitch anew for equitable access to vaccines to the coronavirus pandemic. Such vaccines must be available at “affordable terms,” according to Duterte.

He said it would be difficult to strike a balance between reopening economies and containing the spread of the virus without a vaccine or a cure. “We must work together to ensure that all countries have access to safe vaccines at affordable terms,” he said.

Hopes have risen for a possible end to the pandemic after a US-based Pfizer announced its potential vaccine is 90 percent effective in protecting people from the virus based on recent clinical trials. The world’s cases of coronavirus have so far reached more than 53 million based on a global tracker of Johns Hopkins Universities. The death toll has soared to more than 1.3 million.

In his remarks, the President also called for “enhanced multilateralism” in dealing with challenges to people’s security and way of life, from the coronavirus pandemic to climate change. He admitted that no country can address these issues on its own.

“The fate of the powerful can no longer be separated from those of the weak. This is our reality today. We must act with a greater sense of shared responsibility and common destiny. The way forward is enhanced multilateralism,” he said.

“We may differ in national priorities. But the Philippines believes that we share enough fundamental interests to unite us into action,” he added.

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