(Photo courtesy of the Office of the President)

MANILA – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must find immediate solutions to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change and address the digital divide among Southeast Asian youth, Sultan Kudarat Governor Pax Ali Mangudadatu said Thursday.

Mangudadatu made the call, when he was introduced by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. during the ASEAN Leaders' interface with representatives of youth leaders from the region.

In a speech delivered at the Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Mangudadatu cited the devastating effects of Severe Tropical Storm Paeng which struck the Philippines in October.

Mangudadatu said the damage wrought by Paeng is a "wake-up call" not only for the Philippines but for the whole ASEAN also composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

"It is a major concern for everyone... Because of climate change, things have changed. Our region, which was once known to be typhoon-free and safe from typhoons, has now become its latest victim," Mangudadatu told the ASEAN leaders.

"It is a wake-up call for everyone to act immediately. This is a call for all of us to work together in addressing climate change as one of the biggest threats to our future and especially to the youth," he added.

Addressing climate change is one of the top priorities of the Marcos administration.

On Tuesday, Marcos bared his plan to place the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) under the supervision of the Office of the President, to improve the Philippines' disaster response and considering that the country is prone to disasters.

In line with the government's "whole-of-nation" approach to step up the country's disaster preparedness, the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS), the lead communications arm of the executive branch, also participated Thursday in the fourth Quarter Nationwide Simultaneous Earthquake Drill.

The OPS, in a separate Facebook post, shared photos of its personnel performing "Duck, Cover, and Hold" gesture in its office.

Digital gap

Meantime, Mangudadatu also asked ASEAN member-states to put a stop to the digital gap among the children, the youth, and members of the community, especially with the current global digitalization.

Addressing the digital divide, Mangudadatu said, would help the youth become more "productive and competitive."

"We join ASEAN in ensuring that our youth will be productive and competitive in all levels and in different fields as we adjust to a post-pandemic world. We also continue to ensure that the new life and the new normal will be beneficial, progressive, and growing for everyone," Mangudadatu, a Mindanao youth leader, said.

Mangudadatu also expressed pride in the Philippines for "[creating] young leaders who lead the youth and [honing] young leaders who lead the country and the government."

Marcos was also a pro-youth advocate when he was still a member of the Philippine Congress, authoring numerous bills in youth empowerment, such as the strengthening of the National Youth Commission and the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Law.

The ASEAN leaders' meeting with the youth representatives serves as a platform to discuss and exchange views on youth development and other issues as well as to promote partnership for sustainability.

Serving as ASEAN youth representatives of the Philippines were Assistant Professor Mark Bon Basadre of the Father Saturnino Urios University and Sangguniang Kabataan chairperson Franklin Villa of Sampaguita village in Solana, Cagayan, based on a Facebook post by state-run Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM).

The Philippine delegation advocated for proactive engagement in the formulation and implementation of programs beneficial for the youth, the Office of the President said in another Facebook post.

Marcos is currently in Cambodia to attend the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits from Nov. 10 to 13. (PNA)