Duterte to UN: Pandemic pushed PH to boost health systems
MANILA, Philippines — The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses of society, prompting the Philippines to prioritize strengthening its health systems, President Rodrigo Duterte said Friday before the United Nations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of our societies and institutions. Our immediate responses were necessary, yet have driven our societies apart,” Duterte said in a pre-recorded speech at the UN General Assembly’s special session in COVID-19.
“Our first priority is to strengthen the capacity of health systems. Without a cure and a vaccine, we can only delay the spread of the disease while we reopen our economies,” he added.
While he recognized how the pandemic showed the weaknesses of institutions, Duterte also noted the advantages of lockdowns imposed to curb the virus spread.
“Lockdowns have forced us to take full advantage of technology and innovation. It has sped up the adoption of e-commerce, e-learning, videoconferencing, and artificial intelligence,” he said.
The Philippines, said to have the world’s longest lockdown, has been subjected to various levels of community quarantine since March to prevent coronavirus transmission while also slowly reopening the economy.
Make vaccine universally accessible
“Life-saving services and products must be made accessible to the most vulnerable — the most to the least. The Philippines reiterates the call for universal access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and technologies,” Duterte said.
“If any country is excluded by reason of poverty or strategic unimportance, this gross injustice will haunt the world for a long time…We cannot let this happen. No one is safe unless everyone is safe,” he went on.
In his first speech before the UN last September, Duterte also said that the COVID-19 vaccine, once available, should be made available to all nations as a matter of policy.
Duterte vowed that the Philippines would “do its part” and contribute to the pooling of global resources in support of medical and scientific initiatives.
‘Pandemic worsened threats to peace, security’
The President also welcomed UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire as the pandemic “worsened threats to peace and security.”
“The lawless weaponizes this health crisis. They cripple the state’s ability to respond. They leave COVID-19 to wreak its worst on the population. This is an inconvenient truth –but one that we must face head-on,” he said.
While the Philippines want to ensure medical care to Filipinos, Duterte said combatting terrorism “is just as urgent now as it was before the pandemic.”
“In my country, this fight is about protecting life while preserving the democratic values we have restored without violence,” he said.
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