Marcos pushes tougher anti-trafficking drive, wider access to medical supplies

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has urged stronger collaboration among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to help combat transnational crimes and improve access to affordable medicines and vaccines for their citizens.

The President made his call during the on-going ASEAN Leaders’ meetings with the leaders of Australia and India in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

He said effective  partnership “will strengthen our regional responses and keep us in step with the constantly evolving schemes of transnational criminals and traffickers.” He likewise urged his fellow ASEAN leaders to work closely with India to ensure better access to medicines and vaccines, as the region recovers from the till lingering Covid-19 pandemic.

Delivering his intervention during the 19th ASEAN-India Summit, Marcos said the Southeast Asian nations must ensure better access to health services by securing cheaper medicines and vaccines from New Delhi.

“ASEAN friends, let us not miss the opportunity of having the pharmacy of the world as our close neighbor and dialogue partner. The high cost of life-saving medicines and vaccines are barriers to a healthy population,” he said, referring to India.

“Let us work closely with India in ensuring that our region has access to a sufficient volume of affordable, high-quality medicines and vaccines,” he added.

Marcos likewise reiterated the need to find ways to ensure the ASEAN’s strong economic recovery despite the pandemic. On the economic front, he encouraged Australia’s continued collaboration with the ASEAN Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) Council.

The ASEAN TVET Council is now preparing for the conclusion of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area upgrade, which will further encourage trade in services.

The Filipino leader also sought to deepen engagement with India on blue economy, especially since the Indo-Pacific becomes a “theater of geopolitics and geo-economics.”

Marcos said ASEAN ministers and senior officials must find “the intersection between maritime security and economic prosperity cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, which should be balanced by shared concern of preventing further environmental degradation allowing the region’s marine ecosystem to thrive.”

On food security, Marcos said the Philippines welcomes engagement with Australia on the implementation of the Strategic Plan for ASEAN Cooperation in Food, Agriculture and Forestry for 20016-2025.

“Food-resilience and food self-sufficiency are two of our very basic and foremost priorities in the Philippines. We need to protect the region and our countries from shocks on the global food value chain, as well as against the adverse effects of climate change,” he stressed.

On the disastrous threat of climate change, Marcos similarly called on his fellow leaders to take initiatives that will address the problem effectively.