Duterte urges US to increase support for ASEAN COVID-19 response fund

President Rodrigo Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on Tuesday, November 17. | Malacañang photo by Toto Lozano

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday, November 14, expressed his gratitude for the United States’  support of the Philippines’ response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, in a speech read by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr, first expressed his gratitude to the United States for its generous assistance of state-of-the-art ventilators and other medical supplies to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the Philippines,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a statement.

Duterte was not able to attend the virtual 37th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit and Related Summits on Saturday as he was visiting rescue efforts to the flooding in Cagayan Valley.

In his speech, he urged the U.S. to help the rest of the ASEAN countries in combating COVID-19.

“He (Duterte) further invited the US to contribute to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies and the ASEAN Center for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases,” Roque said.

Duterte also asked ASEAN member-states and the U.S. to sustain the initiatives of the ASEAN-U.S. Strategic Partnership for regional growth, where both parties could benefit from increased trade and investments as well as cooperation in the digital economy and innovation.

On the South China Sea issue, the Chief Executive underscored that the Philippines is for the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law.

According to him, there is no other viable path but honest negotiations and sincere diplomacy.

On Thursday, Duterte invoked the country’s arbitral victory against China over the South China Sea.

“The Philippine position is clear and firm. We must solve the disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” he said.

“The 2016 arbitral award on the South China Sea is an authoritative interpretation of the application of UNCLOS. It is now part of international law. And its significance cannot be diminished nor ignored by any country, however big and powerful,” he added.

Duterte also called for the completion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to promote peace and stability in the busy waterway.

“The Philippines is one with ASEAN in transforming the South China Sea into a sea of peace and prosperity for all,” he said.

“We are committed to the immediate conclusion of a substantive and effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. And if I may add, it has been a long time and it is a long wait,” he added.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at ritchel.mendiola@asianjournalinc.com.

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