Duterte calls for unity to address pandemic, terrorism

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DAVAO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte rallied for global unity Wednesday to address the twin threats of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and terrorism, stressing unilateralism is not the answer to the present challenges.

Speaking during the Aqaba Process Virtual Meeting on COVID-19 Response, Duterte said as countries respond to the fast-spreading virus, they shut down borders and imposed limits to mobility and trade. 

Those measures devastated economies, created institutional crisis as well as global uncertainty, he said, noting the crisis also prompted countries to adopt a unilateral approach.

 “But the path to recovery requires more openness, deeper solidarity, and stronger cooperation among nations,” he told the meeting hosted by the Kingdom of Jordan.

Also during his address, Duterte said terrorist organizations remain relentless in sowing chaos even while the Philippines is confronting the current pandemic.

“Local terrorist groups, such as the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and the New People’s Army of the Communist Party of the Philippines have been emboldened: They exploit the situation to serve their nefarious activities,” he said.

The August 24 bombing attack in Sulu killed more than a dozen individuals and also injured scores of people.

Despite the twin threats of COVID-19 and terrorism, the President said his administration remains determined to overcome these challenges.

“Now, more than ever, our resolve is stronger: We will not let up in our fight against terrorism. And we will not allow COVID-19 to bring our people to their knees,” he said.

Reviving the economy is vital, the President said, underscoring that economic independence is not the answer to the present situation. 

The key to shared prosperity is the free movement of goods, capital, and services, complemented with appropriate social safety nets, he noted.

This is the reason why ASEAN-member countries are drawing up a comprehensive recovery plan anchored on strengthening economic cooperation and supply chain connectivity.

ASEAN will build on existing platforms to ensure unimpeded regional trade, work towards more regulatory coherence to promote investment and trade, and expand the digital economy to boost growth and create employment, he explained. 

President Duterte said the regional bloc will also harness technology to allow businesses, especially micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), get access to regional and global supply chains.

To ensure unimpeded movement of goods, he said the Philippine government worked with the International Maritime Organization on the issuance of a “Green Lanes” circular which provides for safe crew changes during the pandemic. 

President Duterte also expressed his gratitude to Jordan’s King Abdullah II for convening the Aqaba Process meeting as well as for providing the Philippines air assets to improve its defense capability.  

“I take this opportunity to express my sincerest gratitude to His Majesty for the generous assistance that will help us enhance our Air Force’s capacity to combat security threats, including terrorism,” he said.-PR

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