PRRD brings up Covid-19 pandemic, SCS dispute in Asean summits

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MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte stressed the significance of conquering the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and resolving the South China Sea (SCS) issue during the 38th and 39th Asean Summits and Related Summits, both of which are being hosted by Brunei.

According to the Office of the President (OP), Duterte made the remarks during “productive discussions” with fellow Southeast Asian leaders, as well as South Korean and Chinese leaders, at the virtual opening of the 38th and 39th Asean Summits and Related Summits.

“Speaking at the 38th ASEAN Summit, President Duterte stressed that Asean’s road to recovery from Covid-19 will be long and difficult as the region is still reeling from the impact of the pandemic,” the OP said.

Palace said that Duterte highlighted the importance of ensuring the “phased and comprehensive” execution of the Asean Comprehensive Recovery Framework, which includes efforts and strategies to help the region recover from the Covid-19 crisis.

He also advocated for the urgent formation of the Asean Centre on Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases, which will serve as Asean’s centre for strengthening the organization’s capabilities to prepare for, prevent, identify, and respond to public health emergencies and emerging diseases.

In his remarks at the 24th Asean-China summit, Duterte stated that the “dynamic” Asean-China partnership would assist both sides in “fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, addressing climate change, and managing geopolitical issues”.

“He thanked China for supporting Asean’s pandemic response, particularly by making life-saving vaccines global public goods,” the OP said.

During the summit, Duterte also urged his fellow Asean leaders to remain united in achieving peace, stability, and prosperity in the SCS, in conformity with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award.

“We have come a long way in keeping the peace and promoting prosperity in our region. We must not allow those with diverging interests to make our efforts fail,” Duterte said.

The four Asean member-states with competing SCS claims are the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

China and Taiwan are among the other SCS claimants.

According to Malacañang, Duterte has asked sea claimants to stay committed to the full execution of the non-binding Declaration on the 2002 Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, pending the creation of a final and binding Code of Conduct (COC) in the highly-contested seas.

The DOC, signed on November 4, 2002, intends to promote non-militarization and exercise self-restraint inside the SCS. The COC in SCS, on the other hand, aims to promote peace and stability along the busy waterway.

“Talks should not remain empty rhetoric. They should be translated into action to fortify the trust and confidence we have cultivated through the years. Acta non verba. Deeds, not words,” Duterte said.

Duterte emphasized the Philippines’ commitment to the conclusion of an “effective and substantive” sea code, noting the Philippines’ contribution to substantive progress in the second reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text, according to the OP.

Duterte also reaffirmed the Philippines’ appeal for “holistic” measures to safeguard and preserve biodiversity and the marine environment, emphasizing that the “Decade of Coastal and Marine Environmental Protection in SCS” runs from 2017 to 2027.

Aside from the Covid-19 pandemic and SCS conflicts, Duterte encouraged Asean leaders to support Myanmar in “peacefully resolving its crisis for the wellbeing of its people,” the Palace stated.

“The President urged all parties in Myanmar to engage in constructive dialogue, stressing that the Asean Special Envoy must be allowed to visit Myanmar soon to meet all relevant parties,” Malacañang said.

During the 22nd Asean-South Korea Summit, the President welcomed the Joint Statement on Advancing their cooperation and underlined the importance of “deeper” regional integration to expedite post-pandemic recovery.

“He (Duterte) welcomed the signing of the Philippines-ROK Free Trade Agreement today, ‘which is needed for our economies to recover and bounce back,” the OP said.

According to Malacañang, Duterte also advocated for the full execution of the Asean-Korea Free Trade Agreement as well as the early entry into effect of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

As the new Country Coordinator for Asean-EU Dialogue Relations, Duterte also welcomed the United Kingdom as Asean’s new Dialogue Partner and vowed to strengthen ties with the European Union (EU), the Palace said.

Key Philippine officials who joined Duterte during the first virtual summits were Secretaries Teodoro Locsin Jr. (Foreign Affairs), Delfin Lorenzana (Defense), Ramon Lopez (Trade), Joselito Bautista (Social Welfare), and Carlito Galvez Jr. (National Task Force Against Covid-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar), the OP said.

House committees to hold hearings during break

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Spread the loveMANILA – The House of Representatives has authorized for its committees to conduct hearings during the five-week congressional break, extending until late April.