MANILA 16 July 2021 – The Philippines championed a cooperative, transparent, science-based, and coordinated regional and global response for equitable access to vaccines at the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Seminar on Upholding Multilateralism held last 13 July 2021 via videoconference.
The Philippine delegation, composed of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and The Department of Health (DOH) representatives, was led by Deputy Assistant Secretary Marian Jocelyn Tirol-Ignacio who spoke at the session on Multilateral Cooperation to Recover from the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Prepare for Future Public Health Emergencies.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Tirol-Ignacio sounded the alarm on the significant gap in COVID-19 vaccination between the haves and have nots. She observed that 80% of the 3 billion vaccinations worldwide have gone into the arms of people in high-and upper-middle income countries.
“Lower income countries face challenges regarding access and administration of vaccines, and are heavily reliant on cooperation frameworks such as COVAX,” she said. She urged multilateral institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank Group, and World Trade Organization (WTO) to lead the cause in making vaccines a global public good.
She also mapped out the links between the climate crisis, destruction of the natural environment and biodiversity loss with inequitable access to healthcare and the spread of zoonotic diseases. She encouraged cooperation and support to enable ASEAN institutions such as the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity and ASEAN BioDiaspora Regional Virtual Center.
The Philippines reiterated its calls for support towards research and capacity building activities and the need to cooperate on establishing global and regional early warning systems and other areas of concern.
Other sessions discussed multilateral cooperation on the changing geopolitical landscape, multilateral trading systems, developing a rules-based cyberspace, climate change, disaster risk reduction, and environmental protection.
The ASEAN Seminar on Upholding Multilateralism was initiated by Brunei Darussalam, the ASEAN Chair for 2021. The ASEAN Leaders are expected to adopt a declaration on Upholding Multilateralism in 2021 at the next ASEAN Summit.