All countries should have equal access to Covid-19 vaccines, President Rodrigo Duterte told the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on Wednesday.

“When the world finds that vaccine, access to it must not be denied nor withheld,” Duterte said. “It should be made available to all, rich and poor nations alike, as a matter of policy.”

Duterte earlier expressed dismay over Western countries requiring payment of cash advances for their vaccines.

He said he preferred the vaccines China and Russia were developing, saying they were offered “charitably” to the Philippines.

“The Philippines joins our partners in the Asean and the Non-Aligned Movement in raising our collective voice: the Covid-19 vaccine must be considered a global public good. Let us be clear on this,” he said.

Duterte said the Philippines would do its part in the pooling of global resources through the overseas deployment of Filipino medical workers.

“Our health workers are among the best,” he told the UN assembly.

Duterte also urged member states of the UN to be coordinated in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic — the “biggest test” the world has faced since World War II.

“The invisible enemy that is Covid-19 has brought about an unfamiliar global landscape and unleashed a crisis without precedent. It is the biggest test the world and the UN faced since World War II,” Duterte said.

“While each nation has its own strategy in fighting the pandemic, what the world needs are coordinated international plans and efforts to pursue a common purpose,” he added.

Duterte said the UN needed to implement reforms to remain “true and faithful” to its 75-year-old principles and ideals amid the new normal brought about by the global health crisis.

“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,” he said.

To fulfill this, Duterte called on the UN to act on improving its security council’s composition, strengthen the role of its general assembly and streamline processes and operations within the organization.

Strengthening the UN would enable it to make good of its mandate to maintain peace and security, uphold justice and human rights and promote freedom and social progress for all, Duterte said.

As of Sept. 23, 31,478,387 people worldwide have contracted Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. John Ezekiel J. Hirro