Senator Christopher “Bong” Go lauded President Rodrigo Duterte for his pronouncements during the 37th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits on Thursday, November 12 that showed the country’s integral role in fostering stronger collaboration in the development of the region.

During the virtual ASEAN Summit, Duterte also defended the country’s arbitral victory over the South China Sea saying no country, no matter how powerful, should ignore the ruling. He added that the Philippines’ victory in the arbitral tribunal is a sound and authoritative interpretation of the application of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS.

“It is now part of international law. And its significance cannot be diminished nor ignored by any country, however big and powerful,” the President said during the high-level meetings.

Go has expressed his support for Duterte’s pronouncements, saying that the rule of law must always be respected and that any dispute must be settled peacefully by involved parties. He also emphasized the importance of collaboration among ASEAN neighbors in overcoming crises.

“Sang-ayon ako sa sinabi ni Pangulong Duterte. Sa tagal ng samahan namin, kilalang kilala ko na ang Pangulo na palaging uunahin niya ang interes at kapakanan ng mga Pilipino,” Go said.

Duterte also discussed with his counterparts in the ASEAN crucial issues on public health emergency, climate change, and disaster risk reduction management, among others.

“Sinisigurado ng Pangulo na hindi mapapabayaan ang mga Pilipino, lalo na ngayon na sunod sunod na suliranin ang hinaharap natin,” he said.

“Sisiguraduhin niya na mapoprotektahan ang buhay ng bawat Pilipino kung kaya’t ipinaglalaban niya na magkaroon tayo ng access sa COVID-19 vaccines. Pinaalala rin niya ang importansya ng pagtutulungan ng mga karatig na bansa laban sa epekto ng climate change,” he added.

Go has also been an advocate for better disaster management and response in the country, filing a bill which seeks to create a Department of Disaster Resilience. The department is eyed to have an empowered, highly specialized department with clear unity of command and primarily responsible in ensuring safe, adaptive and disaster-resilient communities.

Earlier, Go emphasized Duterte’s independent foreign policy and reaffirmed stronger regional cooperation with the country’s ASEAN neighbors, such as Vietnam, especially on the common fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and in ensuring stable long-term rice supply for the country.

“Naniniwala ako na sa mga hakbang na ito, hindi lamang napapatatag ang ating ugnayan sa ibang bansa, nangunguna rin tayo sa kolaborasyon upang magdala ng sustainable development sa buong rehiyon,” he emphasized.

He also expressed his support for Duterte’s commitment to continue nurturing strategic mutually beneficial relationship with neighboring countries while maintaining an independent foreign policy.

“Malaki ang ating papel sa kagustuhan ng ASEAN na pasiglahin muli ang ekonomiya at mapalakas ang laban kontra COVID-19 at iba pang security threats na hinaharap ng rehiyon,” Go added.

In line with this, Go also urged the government to further promote stronger ties with other neighboring countries in the region, especially on the need to boost production of vital medical equipment and supplies to overcome the health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the summit, Duterte also urged his fellow leaders to cooperate against the pandemic, saying “We must work together to ensure that all nations — rich or poor — will have access to safe vaccines. No one is safe until all of us are safe.”

On several occasions, both the President and Senator Go stressed that the poor and vulnerable should be given priorities when a safe COVID-19 vaccine is already available.

“Kami ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte, uunahin namin ang lahat ng mga mahihirap, lahat ng mga vulnerable sector para makabalik na tayo sa normal nating pamumuhay. Basta safe na ‘yung vaccine. And, rest assured, as the Senate health committee chair, palagi kong ipaglalaban ang kalusugan ng bawat Pilipino,” he stressed.

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