By Genalyn Kabiling
NONTHABURI, Thailand – Southeast Asian nations have committed to intensify cooperation with China, Japan and Korea to enhance regional connectivity in the areas of infrastructure, digital innovation, and people mobility, among others.
The 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met with their three dialogue partners in a summit Monday, and released a statement on “Connecting the Connectivities Initiative.” The ASEAN dialogue partners included Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
In a statement, the leaders of the ASEAN Plus Three (APT) acknowledged that connectivity strategies could make a strong contribution to economic growth and enhanced links within the East Asian region.
They agreed to “promote regional connectivity among the ASEAN Plus Three countries by enhancing links and synergies” to attain sustainable and inclusive growth and development. Sustainable and high quality infrastructure in accordance with widely accepted international principles would also be pursued to facilitate trade, investment, and service competitiveness in the region.
To ensure seamless logistics and enhance competitiveness, the group agreed to promote integrated multimodal transport, including air, sea, and land transport between ASEAN and the wider region.
They also committed to promote multi-sectoral cooperation on enhancing energy security and energy efficiency and conservation as well as promoting the use of renewable energy.
To promote digital connectivity and innovation in the ASEAN Plus Three countries, the leaders have agreed to exchange views and information on regulatory frameworks for the delivery of digital services, share best practices to support the digital economy, support the establishment of an ASEAN open data network, provide technical assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and encourage collaboration on the development of digital infrastructure.
The leaders also committed to enhance “regulatory excellence” to further facilitate economic activities across the region.
On promoting people-to-people connectivity, ASEAN and the three trading partners vowed to enhance the facilitation of travel and tourist visits, develop quality tourism, and strengthen cultural exchanges and cooperation.
To help raise skill level of manpower and upgrade quality education, the APT nations will pursue exchange and internship in the field of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and promotion of student mobility and quality assurance of higher education.
The same statement included the commitment of APT cooperation in fighting cybercrime, violent extremism and radicalization, misinformation and exploitation of information and communications technology by people engaged in transnational crimes.
Regional financing arrangements and cooperation under the ASEAN Plus Three framework will likewise be strengthened.
Meantime, President Duterte recognized the strategic role of the APT Cooperation in community-building efforts during the summit.
On China, the President welcomed its strong commitment to support the Brunei Darussalam – Indonesia – Malaysia – Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area, citing that this sub-regional cooperation framework jumpstarts development in the remotest and least developed areas in the region, such as Mindanao, according to Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo.
Panelo said the President also cited Japan’s Expanded Partnership for Quality Infrastructure, which helps build state-of-the-art infrastructure networks in the region such as the first subway system in the Philippines.
On Korea, Duterte recognized its views on innovation and smart city developments, and lauded the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN), Panelo said.
“The President of the Philippines also viewed the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangements as a measure that strengthens people-to-people connections. PRRD, in particular, told in the summit to consider harmonizing standards on nurses and other healthcare professionals,” he said.
“He likewise manifested that he looks forward to the conclusion of the negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP),” Panelo added.