MANILA - Citing the global rise in geopolitical tensions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, President Rodrigo Duterte issued a call for peace to leaders in areas affected by conflict, including the dispute in the South China Sea.
“I therefore call on the stakeholders in the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East and Africa: if we cannot be friends as yet, then in God’s name, let us not hate each other too much. I heard it once said, and I say it to myself in complete agreement,” Duterte said in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly in its 75th session Wednesday (Manila time).
He said that the rise in global tensions benefitted no one, especially when weapons are brought into the conflict.
“When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled flat,” he said.
“Given the size and military might of the contenders, we can only imagine and be aghast at the terrible toll on human life and property that shall be inflicted if the ‘word war’ deteriorates into a real war of nuclear weapons and missiles.”
With this, he called UN member-states to fully implement the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Chemical and the Biological Weapons Conventions.
Duterte said he asked the Philippine Senate to ratify the 2017 Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty.
The president also repeated the country’s commitment to “do everything and partner with anyone who would sincerely desire to protect the innocent from terrorism in all its manifestations.”
Citing the controversial local 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act, Duterte said its enactment was done to adhere to UN Security Council resolutions and the global body’s counter-terrorism strategy.
“The Marawi siege, where foreign terrorist fighters took part, taught us that an effective legal framework is crucial. Our 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act shores up the legal framework by focusing on both terrorism and the usual reckless response to it,” he said.
“Most importantly, we remain committed to rebuild stricken communities and address the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism in my country.”
Thanking global peacekeepers, among them Filipinos assigned to the Middle East and Africa, Duterte said the Philippines will increase its footprint in these operations with more women participants.
He ended with a call to empower and strengthen the United Nations by reforming its composition and processes.
“To defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges, we must work with seamless unity which demands complete mutual trust and the conviction that we will win or lose together,” he said.
“We cannot bring back the dead but we can spare the living; and we can build back better, healthier, and more prosperous and just societies.
“To this end, we rededicate ourselves to multilateralism. The UN remains humanity’s essential organization. But it is only as effective as we make it.
“Indeed, to be ready for the new global normal, it cannot be business as usual for the UN. Let us empower UN – reform it - to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.”