SFA Locsin Participates in the Special ASEAN – Australia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on COVID-19


Let women lead. Noting the important role of women during emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. emphasizes the need to protect and promote the rights of women “so they can do with less hindrance what comes naturally to them: the protection and care of mankind,” during the ASEAN-Australia Special Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on COVID-19.

PASAY CITY 02 July 2020 – Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. put a spotlight on the central role of women in discussions to develop a COVID-19 post-pandemic recovery plan at the Special ASEAN-Australia Foreign Ministers Meeting held on 30 June 2020 via videoconference. Together with other ASEAN Foreign Ministers and the ASEAN Secretary-General, Secretary Locsin exchanged views with Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne on ASEAN-Australia cooperation to address COVID-19 and the next steps forward to economic recovery in the region.

Minister Payne stated women are a priority for Australia and singled out Secretary Locsin for recognizing “the importance of including women in the recovery in every way.” Secretary Locsin said “when it comes to caring in emergencies — be they conflict or health, we must look to women to play the bigger and more effective role. We need to protect and promote the rights of women so they can do with less hindrance what comes naturally to them: the protection and care of mankind.” The Secretary cited the inequalities suffered by women, chiefly their vulnerability to domestic abuse during lockdowns, loss of family income, greater risk of infection as frontline workers and greater exposure to mental strain; and called on ASEAN and Australia to craft a women-responsive recovery plan for the region that will give women their due and assure their wellbeing as a priority in the new normal.

At the meeting, Minister Payne announced Australia’s package of initiatives to expand cooperation with ASEAN on COVID-19 through an additional $23 million commitment to help ASEAN bolster health security, economic recovery, and stability in the region in line with the Australian Government's new Partnerships for Recovery policy. The assistance will be allocated for various health initiatives, support for ASEAN-Australia Political-Security Partnership, vulnerable migrant worker communities, and programs that will accelerate the region's digital transformation in support of ASEAN’s pandemic recovery plan.

The Meeting noted that COVID-19 exposed the weaknesses of regional supply chains and shut down tourism. Secretary Locsin spoke on the need for new and creative solutions to reinvigorate ASEAN’s trade and tourism industries which are largely reliant on intra-regional travel, and stated that the Philippines is eyeing similar approaches to Australia’s “travel bubble” policy.

Aside from expressing the Philippines’ willingness to work with Australia in developing effective and affordable cures, a vaccine, therapeutics and diagnostics, Secretary Locsin also put great stock in the launch of the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Animal Health and Zoonoses and the need to approach environmental health and human health as whole. Saying that illegal trade in wildlife may be at the root of this pandemic, Secretary Locsin emphasized that ASEAN and Australia have a chance to improve existing tools for wildlife disease surveillance, and develop the right measures to control, prevent, and eradicate zoonotic diseases arising from the illegal trade in animals and animal products through the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity hosted by the Philippines.

Secretary Locsin saw Australia, with its location south in the region, as the anchor of a mostly maritime ASEAN. Despite the overriding attention demanded by COVID-19, Secretary Locsin affirmed that the Philippines is more committed than ever to the maintenance of peace and stability in the South China Sea. He emphasized the importance of self-restraint, curbing delusions of grandeur, encouraging rather than discouraging mutual trust, and an unflagging adherence to international law which includes the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The meeting is the fourth Special Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held via videoconference with ASEAN Dialogue Partners on COVID-19, after China, the United States and Russia. END



Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. as seen on screen with Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne (top) and with his fellow ASEAN Foreign Ministers, led by Malaysia as country coordinator for ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations (bottom left), during the Special ASEAN-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on COVID-19.