‘In fighting mood’: Digong hits UN, rich countries at General Assembly photo from Philippine Star

‘In fighting mood’: Digong hits UN, rich countries at General Assembly

Sep 22, 2021, 7:13 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz


President Duterte addressed for the last time as head of state, the 76th UN General Assembly meeting in America where he spoke of the need to empower the UN to make it more relevant in addressing current issues and realities; asked the UN to keep off domestic issues like his drug war; to continue interceding for the poor countries for vaccine supplies to address COVID 19 and to be more vigilant in ensuring amicable relations among nations and to stop nuclear proliferation.

SHOWING no signs of slowing down despite serving his last year as head of a member-state of the United Nations, President Duterte grabbed the chance to again ask the world body to adjust to the realities of the times.

Mincing no words, Digong was as direct as can be when he pushed UN to become more pro-active in seeking vaccines for the poorer countries from developed countries.

"Mr. President, we face multiple crises that demand effective global governance. Yet, our institutions, including the United Nations, have proven to be inadequate. The UN is a product of an era long past. It no longer reflects the political and economic realities of today," Duterte said.


He likewise slammed the Security Council, the pinnacle of the UN structure, for being "neither democratic nor transparent in its representation and processes."

"If the UN is to lead the world out of the many crises we face, things need to change. The UN must empower itself, by reforming itself. Therein lies the hope for humanity," said Duterte.

He also hit the rich nations for overstocking on vaccines which he described as vital protection against Covid-19.

Vaccine inequity

Duterte blasted at rich countries with huge stockpiles of COVID-19 vaccines. “They now talk of booster shots, while developing countries consider half-doses just to get by,” Duterte says.

While grieving those who died from Covid-19, President Duterte said “how we address Covid-19 will define our future. For the Philippines, this means putting up all of the peoples of our united nations at the core of this response.”

COVID 19 is the biggest test the world and the United Nations faced since World War II.


While the United Nations has brought relief and hope to so many countries and peoples around the world, it now finds itself saddled by a virus that has taken many lives and wrecked economies and social order.

He saluted the frontliners “who put their lives on the line even in countries not their own. So also do we honor and recognize the healthcare professionals who selflessly answered the call to combat the COVID-19 pandemic despite its virulence and unknown characteristics.”

UN help

He said the Philippines values the role that UN plays in its fight against the pandemic.

As a middle-income country whose economic advances have been derailed by the pandemic, we welcome the launch of the UN COVID Response and Recovery Fund.

Ensuring universal access to anti COVID-19 technologies and products is pivotal in the global pandemic recovery.

The world is in the race to find a safe and effective vaccine, he stressed.

He lamented that when the world finds that vaccine, access to it must not be denied nor withheld. It should be made available to all, rich and poor nations alike, as a matter of policy.

The Philippines joins partners in ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement in demanding that “the Covid-19 vaccine must be considered a global public good. Let us be clear on this.”

Surprise move

He also called on stakeholders in the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East and Africa to try talking with each other to avoid conflict, which bring untold miseries.

In a surprise move, Digong also extolled the 2016 arbitral award of the South China Sea to countries like the Philippines.

Again, the President talked about the Arbitral Award, which the Philippines is “one with ASEAN and other stakeholders in ensuring that the South China Sea remains a sea of peace, security and prosperity.”

Arbitral award

Before an audience that included China’s Xi Jinping, Duterte said: "The Award must be seen for what it is – a benefit across the board to all who subscribe to the majesty of the law. No amount of willful disregard by any country, however big and powerful, can diminish the Arbitral Award's importance."

“We welcome the increasing number of states that have come in support of the award and what it stands for — the triumph of reason over rashness, of law over disorder, of amity over ambition. This – as it should – is the majesty of the law,” he added.
"The 1982 UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea provide a clear path towards a just, fair, and win-win solution for all," Duterte said.

It is his second time to voice his official thinking of the arbitral before the UN, the first in 2020 when he said “the Award is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish, or abandon."

Yet, in his final state of the nation last July 26, he rehashed a defeatist stance. “How can we fight China? Do we have the weapons, do we have everything?”

He added in his SONA: “This arbitral ruling… America and some Filipinos, brilliant Filipinos I would say, keep on pushing for something which I do not know... What do you want?
“What will I do with a document that does not bind China because they were never a part of that arbitration?” Duterte said then in a mix of English and Filipino, echoing China’s remarks on the ruling.

To recall, since the beginning of his term, Duterte has downplayed the Philippines' maritime and territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea in exchange for economic benefits from Beijing.

Climate crisis

With the poverty rate reduced at 16.6 percent; and a sustained economic growth rate of 6.4 percent between 2010 and 2019, the Philippines was on track to becoming an upper-middle income country by the end of 2020.

But the pandemic has placed our economy in recession.

Despite this downward pressure on growth, the Philippines remains committed to the Sustainable Development Goals and shares an urgency to fight COVID 19 to address the climate crisis.

“This is a global challenge that has worsened existing inequalities and vulnerabilities from within and between nations. Climate change has worsened the ravages of the pandemic.”
“Peoples in developing countries like the Philippines suffer the most. We cannot afford to suffer more,” he pointed out.

The Philippines joined the Paris Agreement to fight climate change. We call on all parties, especially those who have not made good their commitment to fight climate change, to honor the same.

We call on all parties to strengthen communities and peoples for preparedness and resilience. We are talking about mankind and Earth, our one and only home.

Human rights

Duterte said the Philippines continues to protect the human rights of its people, especially from the scourge of illegal drugs, criminality, and terrorism.

“A number of interest groups have weaponized human rights; some well-meaning, others ill-intentioned.
“They attempt to discredit the functioning institutions and mechanisms of a democratic country and a popularly elected government which in its last two years, still enjoy the same widespread approval and support,” he said.
“These detractors pass themselves off as human rights advocates while preying on the most vulnerable humans; even using children as soldiers or human shields in encounters. Even schools are not spared from their malevolence and anti-government propaganda.”

To move forward, open dialogue and constructive engagement with the United Nations is the key.

But these must be done in full respect of the principles of objectivity, noninterference, non-selectivity and genuine dialogue. These are the fundamental bases for productive international cooperation on human rights.

Open doors

He said the Philippines has a long open- door history for refugees—from the White Russians following the 1917 Revolution, the European Jews in the Second World War, the Vietnamese in the late 1960s, and the Iranians displaced by the 1979 revolution, among others.

The Philippines continues to honor this humanitarian tradition in accordance with our obligations under the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol.

But lest we forget: helping the most vulnerable – those displaced by conflict, persecution, and political instability – is a shared responsibility of all countries.

As I have said many times: The doors of the Philippines are open, as they have always been, to everyone fleeing for safety, such as the Rohingyas.

Tags: #RodrigoDuterte, #UnitedNations, #UNGeneralAssembly, #Covid19, #humanrights, #sovereignty

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