VIRTUAL ASEAN MEETING. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte gives his intervention as he joins other leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member countries, the Republic of Korea, People’s Republic of China and Japan during the special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on Covid-19 video conference at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on April 14, 2020. Malacañang said Duterte will join again his fellow Asean leaders in a virtual conference hosted by Vietnam on June 26. (Presidential photo by Ace Morandante)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte will join his fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) leaders in a virtual conference hosted by Vietnam on June 26, Malacañang confirmed on Thursday.

“Kinu-kumpirma ko po na dadalo po [si President Duterte] dahil ito po ay online meeting ng Asean (I am confirming that President Duterte will be joining the online Asean meeting),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual presser aired on state-run PTV-4.

Asean leaders were supposed to hold their 36th annual summit in April this year but the meeting was postponed due to the global threat posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

There was also a proposal from Vietnam, this year’s chair of the 10-man regional bloc, to hold the 36th Asean summit in Hanoi, Vietnam on June 27 and 28.

However, the final decision was to resort to a virtual summit on June 26 as the Covid-19 pandemic remains a threat in the region.

Roque said he was not privy to the issues Duterte would raise during his virtual meeting with his fellow Asean leaders.

“Next week pa naman po iyan, siguro po pupwede nating isapubliko yung agenda ng iba’t ibang mga Asean meeting (It will be held next week so perhaps, the agenda of the Asean meetings will be made public before the conduct of the virtual conference),” he said.

Asean leaders have held several virtual meetings with their dialogue partners in an effort to plot a strategy to overcome the Covid-19 crisis that has gripped the region.

In April, Duterte said Asean members must work together to counter the adverse social and economic impact of Covid-19 pandemic in the regional bloc.

Containing the spread of the novel coronavirus is the current priority of the 10 Asean member-states.

Apart from the Philippines and Vietnam, other Asean members include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Thailand.

Indonesia has the highest number of Covid-19 infections among the ASEAN member-states, reporting a total of 41,341 cases.

It is followed by Singapore (41,216), the Philippines (27,238), Malaysia (8,515), Thailand (3,135), Vietnam (335), Myanmar (262), Brunei (141), Cambodia (126), and Laos (19). (ia/PNA)

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