RP EYES ASEAN FUNDS VS. SARS

Manila, 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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