MANILA – The 10-man Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will become successful in the fight against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) through continued cooperation and collective efforts to arrest the spread of the disease in the region, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday.
Duterte issued the statement as the regional bloc celebrates its 53rd founding anniversary.
“We are confident that the Asean way of partnership and mutual aid will help us overcome the Covid-19 pandemic and move forward with our community-building endeavors,” he said in his message for the occasion.
The regional bloc was established on Aug. 8, 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand following the signing of the Asean declaration by its founding fathers — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
The total number of Asean member-states eventually went up to 10 after Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia joined the organization.
Duterte said despite the present challenges the region is facing, including the Covid-19 crisis, Southeast Asian leaders’ commitment “has never been stronger.”
“Bouncing back from the pandemic appears to be a daunting task. But if pursued with friends, the burden is shared and transformed into an opportunity to create a more resilient Southeast Asian region,” he said.
Among the 10 Asean member-states, the Philippines now has the highest number of Covid-19 infections, which is at 122,754.
It is followed by Indonesia (121,226), Singapore (54,797), Malaysia (9,063), Thailand (3,345), Vietnam (750), Myanmar (359), Cambodia (243), Brunei Darussalam (142), and Laos (20).
Duterte was confident that the current Asean leaders would continue the resolve of the regional bloc’s founding members to bind themselves in friendship and cooperation to secure “enduring peace, freedom and prosperity” for their peoples.
He also acknowledged that the Asean’s one vision and shared destiny, as well as its force for peace and prosperity, have helped the region gain “unparalleled success.”
“With a deeper sense of common purpose, we will continue to work together as one Asean and strengthen partnerships with friends within and outside the region,” Duterte said.
With Asean being the fifth largest economy in the world today, Duterte believed growth and development across the region will continue.
“More importantly, Asean is moving closer to becoming one politically cohesive, economically integrated and socially responsible community,” he said. (PNA)