PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said on Wednesday, September 6, 2023, that there is a need for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and its partners in East Asia to strengthen regional food security mechanisms along with other measures to meet regional challenges.

In his intervention, Marcos said that the Asean-Plus Three (APT), which includes China, Korea and Japan, must stay united, take adversity in stride, and work together to focus on strengthening food security, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and developing the digital domain to encompass all levels of society in countries to ensure connectivity and other cross-cutting issues.

“With the future in mind, we will tighten collaboration with each other and focus on the sustainable development of our region,” Marcos said.

Marcos said that regional mechanisms must be strengthened to ensure food security as well as increase the emergency rice supply of the APT through the Asean Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR).

He highlighted the proposal for APT Cooperation to consider diversifying APTERR by adding other commodities and staple foods to rice not only to strengthen food security but also to alleviate and eradicate hunger and malnutrition among ASEAN member countries.

“We need to mainstream sustainable agricultural and food production systems that enable us to meet the demand for food without compromising the well-being of our natural environment,” Marcos said, suggesting that continued development and implementation of policies will enable the shift to sustainable agriculture and fishery practices.

“Let us forge strong partnerships with key stakeholders in the private sector, strengthen food security and self-sufficiency by upgrading and expanding the agricultural sector through investments in infrastructures, and support farmers and fisherfolks,” he added.

Marcos also proposed closing the digital divide and unleashing the potential of the digital economy, and encouraging the transition to a circular economy in a bid to meet regional challenges.

He said that increasing the digital domain in all the economies will fast-track the growth of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), as well as nano businesses.

“In transitioning to a circular economy, APT collaboration must give rise to game-changing innovation towards a more sustainable economic model where progress and prosperity do not come at the cost of the health of the planet,” said Marcos. (SunStar Philippines)