RP EYES ASEAN FUNDS VS. SARSManila, April 27, 2003 President Gloria Arroyo will propose a regional health fund to battle the flu-like virus when she attends the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) summit on SARS in Bangkok, Thailand on April 29. There, she would seek financial aid that could be used in her administration's local fight against the dreaded disease. In an interview, Mrs. Arroyo said: "We would be receiving a lot of benefits in that affair. One is the financial aid if I attend." A China official in Manila, on condition of anonymity, confirmed Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's attendance in the summit. Wen is the second highest ranking official in China's state leaders hierarchy. Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople said he does not see any obstacle to the presence of Chinese representatives in the SARS summit as this was the prerogative of the summit's host Thailand. Except for Indonesia and Myanmar, all other Asean heads of state or government have confirmed their attendance to the meeting. "We need to act in concert with the Asean. This (fund) will be made available to the Asean Secretariat for the purpose of coordinating the actions of the member-states, for funding the necessary research efforts to get to the bottom of SARS and for the development of the necessary antidotes to this menace," Ople said. "We already have the Asean foundation which can be used for the common SARS fund. The intention is, of course, to source this fund from the member-states of the Asean," he added. Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Lauro Baja Jr. said the SARS summit aims to project a more strategic message and should address the negative economic consequences of the killer disease. He noted the summit should discuss the political implications of each Asean member-country by taking individual member's national measures to combat SARS. Citing the health priority given to the incurable Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome by the United Nations being a regular agenda item, Baja stressed SARS is a transnational issue because it crosses borders and the killer diseases poses serious threats to health specially if it is not contained. According to him, the voluntary fund is to be used for further research on causes and symptoms and how to avoid SARS by establishing mechanism to counter the disease.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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