Duterte joins ASEAN virtual summit on coronavirus

President Rodrigo Duterte, on Friday, joined fellow ASEAN leaders in an summit wherein COVID-19 response and other regional issues would be discussed, including the South China Sea dispute.

Duterte participated in the 36th Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit. It is the first regular meeting of the 10-member bloc that was held via videoconference due to the restrictions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the ASEAN chairperson, and Vietnam’s Prime Minister presided over the opening session.

ASEAN Secretary-General Dato Lim Jock Hoi said the convening of the 36th ASEAN Summit was a “concrete demonstration of ASEAN’s solidarity and leadership” amid the global health crisis.

‘’We expect a greater collaborative in information and knowledge sharing not only in areas of medical development but also in domestic policies related to social and health security given the vast impact of COVID-19 on communities,’’ he said in a statement.

“Such solidarity is very much needed in responding to the pandemic.”

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The President, meanwhile, is expected to raise the overlapping claims in the South China Sea and the concerns of migrant workers.

“The President has always been very clear on the country’s position on the developments [in] the South China Sea and what the objectives are, including the finalization of the code of conduct, final and substantive code of conduct for the South China Sea,” Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje told reporters on Thursday.

Countries are expected to adopt more than ten outcome documents on critical areas of cooperation, Borja said. These address issues such as countering radicalization and violent extremism, food security and supply chain connectivity in the context of pandemic response, and human resource development.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising ten countries in Southeast Asia, which promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational, and sociocultural integration among its members and other countries in Asia.

Its ten members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam