In its 71st Session happening today, representatives of the 37 member-states of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Western Pacific elected Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III as its new chairperson to serve a term of one (1) year.

The committee meets annually to formulate policies, provide oversight for regional programmes, report on the progress of their projects, and consider, revise and endorse new initiatives. Resolutions and decisions adopted during the session will guide the work of the Regional and Country Offices for 2021.

The agenda this year includes: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization, ageing and health, safe and affordable surgical interventions, and the programme budget for 2022-2023.

In his remarks to the Regional Committee, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr. Takeshi Kasai said, “Congratulations to our Chair, Honourable Secretary Duque from the Philippines. Secretary, thank you very much for taking on this important role in this difficult time. We all know there are many other demands on your time.”

During the opening session, Secretary Duque thanked his fellow representatives for their trust and confidence in electing him as their Chairperson. He will be presiding over the entire session virtually from 06 to 09 October 2020

“The circumstances in which we meet this year are very different from last year when we came together to endorse the For the Future vision. Thank you for your continued commitment in implementing that vision in the time of COVID-19, as we work together to adjust to a “new normal” and create a new future,” the Health Chief said.

Joining the Secretary in representing the Philippines are DOH Undersecretaries Mario C. Villaverde, Myrna C. Cabotaje, FDA Director General Rolando Enrique D. Domingo, Directors Maria Soledad Antonio, Napoleon Arevalo, Frances Role Mamaril, Dr. Anna Melissa Guerrero, and Dr. Celia Carlos of the RITM. Representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs Director Emma Sarne, Michelle Jayag and Kevin Mark Gomez are also part of the Philippine delegation.