PH Intervention for Agenda Item 4: Exchange of Views on Regional and International Issues 

As delivered by


Secretary of Foreign Affairs

[ASEAN Foreign Ministers Retreat, 21 January 2021]


2020 forced us to adjust our priorities in the pandemic that’s put the whole world under terrible strain and great fear. Viet Nam rose to the challenge and tweaked ASEAN’s 2020 agenda, leading to a comprehensive recovery plan in November. The Philippines is on the third phase of its action plan against COVID-19. The strategy combines response and recovery by a gradual reopening of the economy with the least risk to public health. We are getting vaccines where we can. Richer countries have over-ordered the available stock. No one blames them. The challenge of equitable distribution within even the richest countries is staggering. Imagine in developing economies; worse yet in the poorest countries. In our case, local government autonomy, mandated in our national Constitution, proved its practical wisdom. Local governments are embarking on their own vaccination drives; again the richer localities have the advantage.  Such is life; and that is why we have national governments to catch those who fall into the cracks. To close them, we are closing the digital divide as fast and best we can. We laud ASEAN agility in convening the ASEAN Cybersecurity Coordinating Committee in the pandemic. We ended 2020 with the RCEP, the biggest trading bloc in history.  Time will tell if the venture proves vacuous or vital.  We take these measured steps while mindful of priorities prior to the pandemic; such as completing the 2nd negotiating text for a COC. Let us show that time in lockdown was for all the tight constraints time profitably spent. Thank you. END