Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) support reallocating existing available funds also encourage technical and financial support to fight the COVID-19 impact in the region, including the proposed establishment of the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund - Photo by ASEAN Secretariat

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) support reallocating existing available funds, encourage technical and financial support, including the proposed establishment of the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund to fight the pandemic. The declaration made after the Special ASEAN Summit via video conference chaired by Nguyen Xuan Phuc, prime minister of Viet Nam.

“We reaffirmed our determination and commitment, in the spirit of a Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN, to remain united, and to act jointly and decisively to control the spread of the disease while mitigating its adverse impact on our people’ livelihood, our societies and economies,” said the head of states in an official statement released today (04/14).

They also agreed to strengthen public health cooperation measures to contain the virus outbreak and protect the people through timely and transparent exchange of information on real time situation and response measures taken by the members, sharing of experience and best practices in epidemiological research and development, clinical treatment, joint research and development of vaccines and anti-viral medicines, enhancing capacity for the public health systems while protecting and ensuring the safety of public health workers.

The leaders also committed to keeping ASEAN’ markets open for trade and investment, and enhance cooperation among the countries and also with external partners with a view to ensuring food security, such as the utilization of the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve. Then, strengthening the resiliency and sustainability of regional supply chains, especially for food, commodities, medicines, medical and essential supplies.

In addition, implement appropriate measures to boost confidence and improve stability of the regional economy, including through policy stimulus, assist people and businesses suffering from the impact of COVID-19, especially the micro, small and medium enterprises and vulnerable groups.

Then, encourage the development of a post-pandemic recovery plan to share lessons learned, restore ASEAN’ connectivity, tourism, normal business and social activities, prevent potential economic downturns.

“We also task our economic ministers and senior officials to explore an arrangement to preserve supply chain connectivity, particularly amongst ASEAN countries, that provides for trade to continue for the smooth flow of essential goods, including medical, food and essential supplies,” the statement said.

The leaders also ensures the critical infrastructure for trade and trading routes via air, land and sea ports remain open also refrain from imposing unnecessary restrictions on the flow of medical, food and essential supplies, in accordance with the rights and obligations under the World Trade Organization covered agreements, the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement, and principles of international law.

In the virtual meeting, Indonesian President, Joko Widodo rated, the pandemic has become a common enemy that is hitting the world economy. Likewise, the economy of the ASEAN region is predicted to grow by only around 1 percent this year.

“First, we must break the chain of spread of the virus in each of our countries, and in the ASEAN region. In addition, we must also decide on the risk of spreading the virus across the border, “he said.

For this reason, he proposed to ASEAN that it could develop a protocol to respond to a pandemic at the border through a joint contract tracing and outbreak investigation to break the chain of distribution in the region.

“Secondly, we must prevent traffic barriers to goods. When we limit the movement of people, the movement of goods must not be obstructed, especially for staples, medicines and medical devices,” he added.

The head of state stressed, ASEAN must have joint arrangements related to trade traffic during the pandemic. Of course this can be a reference to avoid weakening the regional economy. He also noted, the countries in the region must have a commitment to protect ASEAN citizens, including migrant workers.

“We need to show that the ASEAN family functions in the midst of this crisis so that our people feel the benefits of ASEAN directly. I also appreciate the cooperation between Indonesia and Malaysia and Singapore in protecting migrant workers,” said Widodo.

Beside ASEAN Summit, the leaders also hold ASEAN Plus Three with Japan, South Korea and China. He asserted, the countries must encourage the partners, especially ASEAN Plus Three countries to contribute.

“We must focus our cooperation on strengthening the mechanism of cooperation, among others, with the Chiang Mai Initiative and other mechanisms,” he concluded.

by Linda Silaen, Email: linda.silaen@theinsiderstories.com