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ASEAN leaders eye possible opening of business travel in region

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

At least three Southeast Asian leaders have raised the possibility of opening the region for business travel to weather the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte joins other leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries during the 36th ASEAN Summit video conference at the Malago Clubhouse in MalacaƱang on June 26, 2020. SIMEON CELI JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTOS

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte joins other leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries during the 36th ASEAN Summit video conference at the Malago Clubhouse in MalacaƱang on June 26, 2020. (SIMEON CELI JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTOS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Although he did not specify who the leaders were, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that the current Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) chair Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc noted that the pandemic has taken a “heavy toll” on the region.

The leaders agreed that the travel will adhere to health restrictions to prevent the further spread of the disease.

“Nadiskurso na ng at least three heads of state, kung pupwede nang buksan sa rehiyon natin ang (At least three heads of state discussed the possible reopening of our region for) business travel subject to quarantine and health restrictions,” Roque said.

Phuc has noted the importance of crafting a comprehensive post-pandemic recovery plan for ASEAN members to help address the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 by reinforcing trade and investment; cooperation in the digital economy; supporting micro, small and medium enterprises; and innovation.

“We need to maintain good control over the pandemic. We should promptly repair the damage and revitalize our economy and resume economic development,” the Vietnamese Prime Minister said during the opening ceremony.

He added that the implementation of initiatives was necessary to boost the region’s reserve of medical supplies and drawing up standard operating procedures for public health emergencies.

On Friday, the Southeast Asian leaders welcomed the ASEAN Economic Ministers’ issuance of the “Hanoi Plan of Action on Strengthening ASEAN Economic Cooperation and Supply Chain Connectivity in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic” and the establishment of the ASEAN Response Fund.

In his address during the 36th ASEAN Summit, President Duterte took note of the massive disruptions caused by the pandemic and called for “fundamental and systematic changes” in ASEAN to effectively mitigate the adverse consequences of the crisis and facilitate the region’s comprehensive recovery.

According to Duterte, it was also imperative to strengthen the region’s capacity to address future infectious diseases outbreaks through, for instance, research and capacity-building on health technology development.


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