MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have sought strengthened bilateral cooperation to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic that continues to grapple both the Philippines and India.

During their “engaging and productive” telephone conversation on Tuesday night, Duterte and Modi acknowledged the need for Manila and New Delhi to be partners in fighting Covid-19, Malacañang said in a press statement issued on Wednesday.

“The leaders reaffirmed their shared commitment to harness international and bilateral cooperation to effectively address the coronavirus pandemic,” it said.

As of Wednesday, the Philippines has reported 23,732 Covid-19 infections.

On the other hand, confirmed Covid-19 cases in India have already climbed to over 277,000.

The Palace said Duterte and Modi had lauded each other for their efforts to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

Duterte, it added, also took note of India’s 2.82 percent Covid-19 fatality rate, which is among the lowest in the world.

“They also underscored the importance of sharing valuable lessons and best practices on addressing Covid-19,” Malacañang said.

Malacañang said Duterte had also thanked Modi for allowing India’s export of pharmaceutical products amid the pandemic.

Duterte had stressed that India’s move shows its “commitment to cooperation and to good neighborliness,” especially since the country plays a key role as global producer and source of affordable and accessible medicine, it said.

The Palace said Duterte had also commended India for its efforts to develop a vaccine for Covid-19.

It said Modi had ensured Duterte that the Philippines would get affordable medicines and Covid-19 pharmaceutical products, including hydroxychloroquine.

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial drug that is being used for the treatment of some Covid-19 patients.

“Prime Minister Modi likewise said that India is ready to extend all possible cooperation to the Philippines and that the Philippines will definitely benefit from the vaccine that India is developing,” the Palace said.

Malacañang said Duterte and Modi had both expressed appreciation for the mutual assistance extended to repatriated Filipino and Indian nationals affected by the quarantine restrictions during the pandemic.

It added that the two leaders had also agreed to further strengthen cooperation in the context of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) -India Dialogue Partnership.

It said Duterte had stressed the need to strengthen public health systems, food security as key areas of collaboration between the Philippines and India.

Duterte, the Palace said, had also urged India to support the Asean Response Fund for Covid-19.

In January 2018, Duterte held bilateral meeting with Modi in New Delhi when the Filipino leader attended the Asean-India Commemorative Summit and India’s Republic Day. (PNA)

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